It's embarrassing really. Considering the landfill crisis, you'd think the province would jump on the rest of the world's clever recycling initiatives. Alas, no. Here are the gizmos and gas guzzlers we mindlessly junk that get melted down and reincarnated elsewhere. Check your garbage can and weep.
• Sure, scrap yards will take your old heap, but they're also super-inefficient when it comes to recycling, leaving about 25 per cent - including the most toxic components (heavy metals, mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium) - to leach into soil and groundwater.
• The European Union requires that 90 per cent of 2005 models be reused and that toxins like lead and mercury be phased out for safer recycling.
• It's shameful, really. Every province but Ontario has a regulated tire disposal or recycling program to turn old tires into crumb rubber to be used in roofing products, mats and mud flaps. Sad, considering that Ontario actually pioneered the first tire recycling program in Canada in 1989. It was scrapped when it was revealed that money from a tire tax wasn't actually going to tire recycling at all.
• Sweden has had a producer take-back plan since 94, and the EU a restriction on landfilling tires since 99.
• The good news: Ontario has recently announced (finally) that it wants to develop an electronic waste recycling program. The bad news: industry is in charge of developing it.
• The EU is starting to require companies to ensure take-back and recycling of nearly everything with a plug or battery - think laptops, video games, drills, vending machines, fluorescent lamps and smoke detectors. The EU also has compulsory targets for collection (70 to 90 per cent must be recyclable or reusable), and bans on toxic components come into force next year.
Large and small appliances
• They're among the worst offenders when it comes to filling up landfill capacity, but save for the handful of companies that collect what's junked for parts, there's no system-wide program here to handle appliances.
• Taiwan has had take-back systems for fridges, washing machines and air conditioners since 98.
• The EU has included small and large appliances, from fridges to electric toothbrushes, in its E-recycling directive.
• Sure, your municipality might have a special program for old paint, but taxpayers end up paying to "safely dispose" of it - which either means it's "treated" and then sent to landfill or it's incinerated.
• Nova Scotia, Quebec and BC all have provincially regulated paint recycling programs. In BC, paint is recycled for use in asphalt and cement products. In Nova Scotia, it's recycled into new paint, and it's actually illegal to toss old cans in the trash.
• Many garages in T.O. collect and re-refine old engine oil for reuse in engine or heating oil or diesel fuel, but unlike most other provinces, there's no such provincially regulated program here. It doesn't help that Toronto's lax sewer bylaws make it even easier to dump the stuff.
• Nova Scotia bans all used oil from landfill.
• The EU has had waste oil disposal regs since 75.
• BC and Alberta encourage consumers to take old meds to their pharmacies for "environmentally safe disposal." Nothing comparable exists in Ontario.
• Port Colborne, Ontario, has North America's only facility permitted to process and recycle each and every type of battery, but do we take advantage of this by regulating battery recycling for all batteries? No! There's no provincially regulated system of disposal for lead acid or alkaline batteries in Ontario. The feds have just launched a nationwide recycling program for rechargeable batteries.
• The EU has had a producer take-back policy for batteries since 86. In PEI, retailers must send old batteries to facilities for recycling. BC implemented a used lead-acid battery collection program in 91.
• Our blue box system did become a producer responsibility program of sorts when we started forcing industry to pay for half the cost of recycling last year. Trouble is, it punishes those with good, recyclable packaging while covering for those producing packaging that can't be recycled, which ends up in landfill. So, perversely, it actually acts as a disincentive to go green.