3.7 Zero waste

Earlier generations grew up living by the aphorism “waste not, want not.” Our generation seems to embrace “shop till you drop.”

On solid waste, we are number one in the world. Not only is the green plastic garbage bag a Canadian invention, we create more solid waste per capita than even the usual number one in waste society, the U.S.

Yet we think we are more environmentally conscious than we are. We think we are green because we have a blue box on the curb, while the rate at which we waste water and create garbage has increased dramatically since the 1980s.

Landfills, formerly called garbage dumps, account for more GHG emissions than do mining, construction, and domestic aviation combined. Most of these GHG emissions are in the form of methane gas, which is over 20 times more heat absorbing than carbon dioxide. Landfills also leach toxic chemicals into soil and water. There has to be a better way to deal with garbage.

The Green goal is ‘zero waste.’ This means shifting from thinking of waste as a problem to considering waste as a resource. Canada’s failure to manage waste properly represents a huge loss of resources and revenue. Reusing and recycling wastes have been shown to generate 10 to 15 times more jobs than incineration or landfilling. We oppose any incineration technology that shifts landfill problems to air pollution and toxic contaminant dispersal in the atmosphere. We believe that strong incentives must be in place for industry and consumers to reduce waste to zero. Setting a goal of zero waste will provide direction and inspiration.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Work in cooperation with provincial and municipal authorities to expand product responsibility programs where manufacturers are responsible for the entire lifespan of their products, including recycling at the end of usefulness;

  • Provide assistance to municipalities (through the Waste and Waste Treatment Facilities Municipalities Superfund – see Section 1.14, Infrastructure and Communities) in carrying out major waste reduction activities including recycling and central composting facilities;

  • Oppose waste-to-energy incinerators for the disposal of materials that can and should be recycled, composted, or down-cycled.

  • Pass laws, such as those in Germany, requiring manufacturers to accept lifetime stewardship of all products, including packaging. Once goods are returned to the manufacturer, the materials are better designed to be re-usable and recoverable;

  • Move to full reclamation of all electronic and hazardous materials by initiating a recycling deposit tax to be paid when purchasing goods;

  • In cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, fund, implement, and adopt an expedient timetable to achieve a national phase-out of the use of landfills for the disposal of unsorted waste;

  • Work with provincial and territorial governments to develop and implement a national e-waste collection and processing strategy to remove electronic equipment from the general waste stream and eliminate the export of these toxic waste materials to other countries;

  • Introduce a green labeling system for products that are biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable, and for products that are primarily made from recycled materials.