The Misleading Tale of Eco-Friendly

“Unfortunately, I am unable to share any details about our end markets.”

This was the response I received recently, I innocently asked my local recycling facility where Tetra Paks were recycled. Using accurate information in my writing is important to me. Mostly, I was hoping it was being downcycled in Canada or better yet in my home province.

“Unfortunately, I am unable to share any details about our end markets.”

Not satisfied with this answer, I inquired again about location.

“…. [we and our] Post Collection Service provider strive to access end markets as close to home as possible. While some materials are still managed out of province, very few are managed out of country – and this variable does change, as improved material quality …. fosters access to more stringent, local markets. As such, [we] is not in a position to share the location of end markets for each commodity stream. However, I can share that glass packaging is processed at an end market here…

Having spent years writing politically correct letters back to the public that cause no harm; I could surmise easily what was happening to all those Tetra Paks. My guess, if they are being recycled it is in a land far far away.

Canada’s commitment to net-zero emissions is a laudable goal. Understanding the eco-friendly landscape is a daunting task for even the most skilled researcher. There are so many variables to balance:

  • recyclability (are there facilities locally, can the item be recycled, how much is being returned for recycling is it made from complicated materials?)
  • downcycled (these items might get one new life, e.g. a new car mat, a pen, a plastic top, but that ‘second life’ is single-use item that ends up in the landfill)
  • virgin materials (does the product need virgin, non-renewable resources to be manufactured?)
  • agricultural (what are the environmental impacts? e.g. amount of materials used versus the rate at which they replenish)

With so much information and misinformation it is easy to get confused. This is why consumers place great trust in businesses that when they say eco-friendly, sustainable, organic that it is actually a benefit to our environment and not a cleverly written shell game.

The single best solution to the manufacturing conundrum is to implement a closed loop system. By focusing on making items that can go back into the loop to be reused/recycled, over and over again. Although aluminum takes tremendous amounts of energy to make, about 75% of what has been put into circulation still exists because it is 100% recyclable and is a high value commodity.

This is where the closed-loop solution lies for the great ‘bottle debate’. Wine bottles are about 60% of the problem for a wineries GHG. The issue is not so much the size or the weight of the bottle. Rather, it is that a closed-loop system has not been developed.

With glass becoming more and more of a commodity, glass shortages real, supply chain disruptions annoying, it seems will not be long where its inherent value rises and the wine sector beings to embrace reuse over recycle saving thousands of Kg of emissions in the process.

How much is it worth?

About 32 billion of bottles of wine are sold globally each year.
Although they can be recycled, each ton of crushed glass = 1300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, 500 watts of energy.

Every bottle can be reused at least 10 times. Reuse it 5 times & it saves 30% in emissions from being produced.

~Trina Plamondon is a business innovator and Founder of Boutèy. Boutèy‘s mission is to reduce the amount of virgin glass bottles being manufactured, by making old ways, new again. Find out more at http://www.boutey.ca

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