Thursday, October 11, 2007


I do a lot of hiking around the Oceanside area and it always amazes me, when at the end of a long series of logging roads or trails, to find garbage. Primarily plastic garbage. The most common are shopping bags, potato chip bags (plastic lined with aluminum), plastic used to hold aluminum cans together, car tires, and cigarette-pack-wrappers. Just take a look over the cliff on little mountain where the garbage has been piling up for years. Clean-up crews along the highway seem to be on endless duty picking up what people throw out of their cars. Littering is illegal and punishable by fine.

Most of these items are produced from petroleum, which has been refined, and then processed into products that take a very long time to disintegrate. Refining crude oil is a process whereby the most toxic and noxious chemicals are burned off into the atmosphere. A great deal of CO2 emissions are emitted prior to any oil products reaching consumers, these pollutants contribute to global warming by building on the green house gases effecting the planet’s atmosphere.

What is really astounding is finding garbage bags, twist tied and full of house hold garbage, that someone has taken this much care and attention to dump at the end of a long road in the wilderness rather than take it to a transfer station or a dumpster. Even worse, I’ve witnessed people burning plastic in their campfires as well as in barrels to get rid of household trash. Sure, it may seem easy to toss plastic bags, plastic utensils, styrofoam plates, and other plastics into the fire but the toxic fumes do contribute to green-house effects in the atmosphere. Like the canary in the mine, many species of birds have been dying due to toxins in the air we breath.

Of course the best way to avoid problems associated with plastic is to reduce the amount of plastic we consume as individuals. An easy start is at the grocery store, where millions of plastic bags are given away free. In Europe the standard has always been for people to bring their own hardy bags to the grocery store to put their products into for the trip home.

As most tourists who have visited Europe will attest, if you have no bag with you the store will sell you one for a minimum charge of $0.50 per bag. As a result most Europeans provide their own bags, this has become the norm rather than the exception. If local grocery stores began to charge for every plastic or paper grocery bag how long would it be until everyone brought their own bags. Which grocery story will start this trend? Perhaps they need some encouragement from you, their loyal customers. Many stores already provide strong durable bags at a small price.

Fleece and other polyester clothing is now available made primarily from post consumer recycled plastic materials. After all polyester is merely plastic spun together to make threads, which are then woven together into garments. Buying these recycled cloths supports an industry that is using up those plastic bags we need to reuse. By extending the use of these plastics you are preventing more crude oil from being refined to make polyester thread, less toxins in the atmosphere, less plastic to disintegrate.

Plastic containers are turned into building materials, which are now available at your local lumberyard in the form of studs and other forms of structural products. The Regional District of Nanaimo and all local municipalities have adopted a zero waste strategy, which allows the public to include plastic containers in their blue box for recycling. Those very same blue boxes are made from recycled plastic. For collection rules and more information contact:

It is a well-known fact that much of the CO2 emissions are produced from car engines burning gasoline, but there are many other ways that we use oil derivatives in our daily lives. Every drop of oil represents a landscape devastated by extraction, drops spilled along the way, gases emitted into the atmosphere in the refining process, and transportation costs including oil spills. Take care with how much plastic you consume and be careful how your deal with your garbage. If you would like to report illegal dumping contact local RCMP or the RDN toll free 1-877-607-4111

If you live elsewhere I can garantee you will find similair problems on any backroads. Please let your local government know.

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