You may have noticed the word “change” being bandied around in recent months. It’s one of the keywords of sustainable living. We’re all creatures designed for change, which is why we don’t cope well with sedentary, stagnant habits (or “modern life”, if you’re feeling cynical). But with the word comes a certain responsibility.
Change is certainly in the air in Toronto, which has just slapped a ban on plastic water bottle sales by 2011. Furthermore, from June 2009 a 5 cent charge will be placed on every plastic supermarket bag – and even biodegradable, compostable bags (the kind increasingly popular for refuse sacks) will be officially nixed. In Toronto, plastic has nowhere to shine.
This is admirable work. Urban tumbleweed is a global pestilence and should be a thing of the last century – and considering the non-renewable resources expended in making plastic bottles, some of which contain the profoundly worrying chemical BPA, it’s time we consigned our favourite polyethylene habit to the history books. Here, Canada is way ahead of the pack. We’ve heard of plastic bag bans from around the world, but aside from a few progressive examples, banning plastic bottles is quite the Canadian thing.
So it’s wall-to-wall good news? Only if the Toronto City Council acts responsibly. Denying the public a common resource without investing heavily in providing alternatives (and perhaps more importantly, educating the public about them) is a recipe for political disaster. While the authorities promise to provide cardboard bags and upgrade drinking fountains, there’s no news about a viable, widely-available alternative to how millions of Americans currently carry their drinking water around. Change is certainly needed – but to what?