CPIA Tackling Trash

By Carol Hochu, President and CEO, CPIA

CPIA has been a proud sponsor of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) for several years now. If you're not familiar with this organization, the GCSC emerged in 2001 as a national program, providing all Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities. Cleanups started appearing in every province and territory, and by 2003, more than 20,000 volunteers were taking part. In 2012, the GCSC celebrated its 19th anniversary with more than 57,000 volunteers, and expanded the spring cleanup to include school groups in Ontario and British Columbia. Today, it is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs, as well as the most significant contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup in Canada.

imgPYGLBJvwfu.pngOn a beautiful September day, the CPIA staff team decided to walk the talk and participate in a cleanup event in Etobicoke Creek not far from the CPIA offices. Proudly sporting our resinGEAR golf shirts made from 100% recycled PET bottles (http://www.resingear.org/), along with work gloves and boots, we walked a section of the creek, picking up and recording trash collected along the way. Without the benefit of prior years experience cleaning up this creek (or any other waterway for that matter), my first impressions were of a fairly clean creek. Yes we picked up some plastics bottles, wrappers and polystyrene foam, but we also picked up juice boxes, lots of bits of wire, golf balls (the creek is adjacent to a golf course) and assorted other items (but no tires or grocery carts which can be commonplace). What shocked me the most was the half empty water bottle only a few metres away from a waste receptacle (see photo). If I want to be generous, perhaps a mom or dad inadvertently left it behind at the playground or it fell out of the diaper bag or stroller. But the waste receptacle was highly visible and only a short distance away! Which made me think, why do people litter? Im probably dating myself, but I distinctly remember a TV commercial or song when I was a youngster that went like this: Please, Please, Don't Be a Litterbug, 'Cause Every Litter Bit Hurts! Certainly my parents and teachers drilled it into us to properly dispose of garbage and to not throw trash on the ground.

The Keep America Beautiful organization (www.kab.org) says these are the main reasons why people litter:

  • Personal choice: Individual behavioror choosing to litter means litter on the ground. Nearly one in five, or 17% of all disposals observed in public spaces were littering, while 83% disposed of litter properly. And 81% of littering was intentional, e.g., flicking, flinging, or dropping. Litter begets litter: Individuals are much more likely to litter into a littered environment.
  • And once there, it attracts more litter. By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and improves overall quality of life. Availability and proximity to trash and recycling receptacles also impact whether someone chooses to litter.
  • It's "not my responsibility": Some people feel no sense of ownership for parks, walkways, beaches, and other public spaces. They believe someone else will pick up after them; that its not their responsibility.

One thing is certain when it comes to litter - CPIA and our North American Plastics Alliance (NAPA) partners of SPI and ACC agree that litter doesnt belong in our oceans, waterways or any part of our natural environment. And, the global plastics industry has organized to combat the problem, sponsoring research and working in public-private partnerships. CPIA is an active participant in and has helped lead the development of the plastics industrys "Global Declaration on Solutions for Marine Litter", which has been signed by more than sixty plastics associations in 34 countries. Through this initiative, more than 180 projects focused on researching, preventing or reducing marine debris are underway around the globe. Krista Friesen, CPIAs VP Sustainability, will be travelling to Manila (Philippines) in early December to participate in the next Global Declarations meeting, stay tuned for her progress report.

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By now you have probably heard that the City of Montreal is planning to consult on the possibility of a plastic bag ban. CPIAs statement to our members on this issue was issued the day after Mayor Denis Coderres announcement and is included again in this newsletter for information. We will keep you updated as this issue unfolds.