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['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']
['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']

Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

It is becoming an ongoing topic of conversation...the fact that we are polluting our world...followed by our apparent inability to do much more than band-aid fixes related to the problem. This past month it was announced that the Philippines would be sending back tons of plastic garbage. A Canadian company, which is no longer in business, sent 103 mislabelled containers to that region. Rather than it being recyclable material it was mixed garbage. Thirty four containers were disposed of by the Philippines, but 69 remain in Manila and will be sent back to Canada.

Ottawa will pay $1.1 million to Bollore Logistics Canada to prepare, transfer, ship, and dispose of the trash. Meanwhile, the Philippine government has also made arrangements to transport the unwanted material. The garbage had arrived in that country while the Conservatives were in power, but left Justin Trudeau in a position of having to deal with the matter. With the company becoming a failed company, the mess has become the government's responsibility.

Another problem that requires immediate attention is that plastic garbage is finding its way into the oceans. There are huge areas that are considered dead. Plastics are washing up on the shorelines of uninhabited islands. Marine life and marine plant life have difficulty existing alongside huge areas of plastics. It has recently been noted that those of us who consume ocean products are also likely ingesting micro-plastics. Marine life is ingesting this material and humans ingest crab, lobster, and many varieties of fish.

We are also becoming aware of ghost gear in our ocean waters. Ghost gear refers to lost or abandoned fishing gear. Seals, turtles, dolphins...and even whales can be caught in fishing nets. The lucky ones are freed. The others die a slow and painful death.

I recently returned from a visit with family members in B.C. They live quite near the Fraser River. Last year several seals died in that river while entangled in a fishing net. It is not just lost equipment that kills. Ghost crab pots and ghost lobster pots kill...thus, impacting on food security. One large Canadian seafood giant was fined for leaving thousands of lobster pots in the ocean for an extended period of time.

It has become necessary to really think about our use of plastics. Plastics can be recycled. However, it requires care on the part of the consumer to use less plastics, and when disposing of plastic material we must make certain it is clean and properly sorted. Whenever possible I use reusable plastic and glass containers for food storage. A few canning jars on a shelf give me additional storage.

I have become even more aware of the unnecessary use of plastics in packaging. I recently picked up toilet paper which was sold in bulk. Each small package was wrapped in plastic and the group of packages were wrapped in even stronger plastic. To my way of thinking...one layer of plastic is plenty to keep my supply of toilet paper clean and ready for use. A bit of creative thinking is needed to come up with a way to keep all of those rolls in a tidy bundle without excessive use of plastic.

A few years ago a number of people removed all unnecessary packaging from products they purchased before the products were placed in bags at the store. They then requested that the store return the packaging to the manufacturers of those products. Think about it...the consumer expresses their dissatisfaction, the retailer then passes the message along, and the manufacturer comes up with a creative solution allowing for safe packaging that doesn't create waste.

Now, if we can just come up with a way to dispose of plastics, paper, and even actual garbage, without having to put that stuff in additional large plastic bags - we might be on the road to preventing plastic pollution. I am thinking about some kind of reusable containers that can be set on the curb on collection day. Collection vehicles might have separate compartments for paper and plastics. That might also require some work on our part...maybe occasionally washing out the containers. Heck, we are the ones who have been making the mess. We need to clean up our act; thus clean up this planet.

One final point..please bring your reusable bags with you when shopping.

Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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