Q: What are we supposed to do with our old polycarbonate bottles now that we know they’re dangerous? Won’t they leach in landfill?
A: First of all, can we take a moment to say hip, hip, hooray? I know there’s little to celebrate about the realization that the cannister you’ve drunk from for years is leaching harmful toxins, but we should raise a glass to the fact that action is finally being taken.
All right, maybe the troubling chemical in those water and baby bottles has not been banned just yet.
The public’s got 60 days to comment on Health Canada’s report recommending that bisphenol A (BPA) be classified as toxic, and unless some magical new research is submitted that clears the hormone disruptor of all wrongdoing, the government will ban the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles – but don’t count on a ban on BPA-riddled products for big people.
Regardless, you’ve probably noticed the sudden disappearance of the plastic from shelves at Wal-Mart, Zellers, the Bay, Canadian Tire, SportChek and others. It’s safe to say those haven’t quite vanished into thin air, whisked to the land of plastic fairy castles and polycarbonate clouds. They’ve gotta go somewhere, and as we speak they’re either being packed off to landfill by the millions or stockpiled in warehouses until companies can figure out what to do with them.
Chuck it in the recycling bin if you want, but they’ll only fish it out at the other end and send it to the dump. The city’s waste management peeps say they sent the bottles off for review, and it was concluded that the potential leachate is not classified as toxic waste. But that doesn’t mean they won’t leach.
Says director of solid waste Geoff Rathbone, “That’s why landfills have extensive leachate collection systems – because there are non-hazardous items that do create leachate.”
Toronto’s pretty confident in its new Green Lane landfill, but plenty of older, poorly lined dumps have been known to contaminate groundwater due to seepage. That’s where the problems can start trickling in. According to Environment Canada, “Scientists also found that at low levels, bisphenol A can harm fish and aquatic organisms over time.”
And further: “Studies indicate that bisphenol A can currently be found in wastewater and sludge treatment plants.” Basically, what that means is that the 95 per cent of us who have bisphenol A coursing through our bloodstream are excreting the stuff when we go to the loo.
Hmm, doesn’t that tell you we should be banning the plastic in all products that come in contact with any lips, not just in sippy cups?
In the meantime, some retailers like Mountain Equipment Co-op are trying to dream up ways to put their stockrooms of returned bottles to use. So far no word, though some MEC employees suggested using them as water-saving toilet dams. Fine idea if we could guarantee they wouldn’t leach into our water system over time.
Others are trying to figure out if they could be recycled into lenses for glasses or compact disc coatings (two of polycarbonate’s non-food uses).
You can also come up with your own crafty ways of reusing them. Use them to keep non-food items dry on canoe trips. Fill one with bandages, antiseptic wipes, and flares for a compact survival kit. Use strips of old magazines to make découpage vases out of them. Toss loose change in yours, or use it as a pencil holder. I’ve also heard of people filling them with boiling water, then throwing them in their sleeping bag as a bed warmer.
You can even turn your bottle into a solar lantern. SolLight makes a sun-powered LED light cap that’s designed to be screwed onto Nalgene-type bottles (www.sollight.com).
And your canister will make a great leak-proof toiletry case for your mini-shampoo and face wash bottles if you’re heading out on vacation.
Anyone else got a good idea? Just post it under the column online.
It’d be sad to see dumps full of reusable beverage canisters that were designed to eliminate the landfill-clogging associated with single-use bottles. The irony of it all could leave you choking on your water.
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