Recycling History

Recycling is a daily theme for me right now as I’m sifting and sorting through my life. Yesterday I came upon an old file labelled “recycling.” It contained newspaper clippings and magazine articles going back to 1991. The headlines show how far we have come and not come. “Fluorescents are made to last,” “Juice box ads fail to tell the whole story,” “Household trash can be hazardous,” “Breaking the Trash Habit,” “Recycling: Profit by Doing the Right Thing.”

One of the articles encourages people to throw batteries in the garbage because they no longer contain mercury. Well we don’t do that any more. But now there’s a little problem with the mercury in the flourescents.

Tetra Pak launched a campaign to convince consumers that it was more environmentally sound to move to the foil-lined drink boxes over reusable glass. They claimed the boxes, the straws and wrap were all recyclable. They were, but only in Ontario to begin with. It took awhile, but the boxes now have a deposit on them and can be returned for recycling across Canada, that is except for the ones that contain soy milk.

Industry is stepping up more and more, with BC leading the way with extended producer responsibility programs. We now have hazardous waste depots to safely dispose of our paints and solvents and there are places to recycle our electronics.

Another article from February 1991 talks about the race to convert plastic, wood, paper and metal into useful products, calling it the growth industry of the decade. In 1990, one successful woman entrepreneur from Winnipeg had created a line of business and school supplies made from pop bottles; Desert Rose Productions now has sales up to $5 million.

I have some of the paperwork around two recycling programs I initiated in my apartment buildings, one in Oct 1990 in Winnipeg, the other in 1992 in Vancouver. I also have correspondence from the City Clerk’s Office and copies of the minutes from council meetings on April 14th and 16th, 1992 discussing the initiation of an apartment recycling program in Vancouver.

Now the big question is, do I hang on to these little pieces of history or do I recycle them?

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