Life in a Bottle

January 25, 2007

Fangblenny in a BottleThe provincial government of Ontario is introducing a new program next month that will require that we return liquor and wine bottles to the beer store. Premier Dalton McGuinty said:

The single most important thing that Ontarians need to know is that we have come kicking and screaming out of the dark ages when it comes to LCBO containers

Uh huh. As an aside to our friends living outside Ontario (Canada), the LCBO is the government run thingamabobee where we buy liquor while The Beer Store (formerly known as Brewers Retail… apparently some government thingamabobees do know marketing) sells beer. There will be a deposit system to help Ontarians do the right thing and we will need to return our liquor/wine bottles to The Beer Store.

But why? Doesn’t the Blue Box program work? The claim is that this program will help “divert about 25,000 to 30,000 additional tons of glass from landfills”. Wow. That can’t be right. That claim feels false to me mostly because, personally, the Blue Box is the absolutely best way to get rid of bottles and glass. I don’t want to put them in the garbage. Bottles are big, heavy, and they break. So where does this 25,000 tons of LCBO orginated landfill waste come from?

A little time with our friend Google turns up this wonderful debate that sheds some light on the matter.

If you don’t think it is true that glass is being landfilled, then I suggest you drive about 100 kilometres up Highway 6 from Fisherville and watch 100% of the glass that goes in the front door of a recycling centre come out the back door to be sent to the Green Lane Landfill for disposal. That is just one of many examples where glass collected in a blue box recycling program is landfilled every day in Ontario.

As an environmentalist with your track record, you should also know that the only environmental benefit of recycling glass has to do with the energy savings of making new glass bottles with glass cullet as opposed to making new glass bottles from mined natural resources. However, that energy savings is lost as soon as the glass has to be sent more than 80 kilometres to market. There are very few blue box recycling programs in Ontario that are within an 80 kilometre range of a glass manufacturer or glass recycling facility. Sending wine and liquor bottles destined for recycling back in the same truck as beer bottles destined for recycling can at least help narrow that energy gap. What would be even better would be if the truck that just delivered cases of wine and spirits to the local LCBO retail store was filled back up with empty wine and spirit bottles destined for recycling instead of that truck driving empty back to an LCBO distribution centre.

La voila. So my intuitions were right, recycling bottles in the Blue Box is what most people do but most out-of-the way municipalities just send the glass right on to the landfill.

But I am grateful that this enlightened government program has given me the opportunity to share my photo of a little fangblenny living inside a coral encrusted bottle :-)