Among the United Nations’ theme days World Environment Day on June 5th is special for encouraging individuals and groups to do something –locally– to take care of the Earth.

We know much needs to be done. In a time of climate change, islands of floating trash in the seas, and pervasive waste around the world, these and other challenges are daunting and difficult to resolve through individual acts.

Yet World Environment Day is a good time to remember how far we have come and how we have contributed to shaping the more environmentally conscious communities we live in today. This acknowledgement is less ‘self-congratulatory’ than motivational because there is so much further to go. By working collaboratively industry, governments, non-government organizations, communities and individuals have made a quantum shift in our relationship to resources we once considered ‘garbage.’

And this must continue.

A nudge from China

The recent change in China’s policy for accepting recyclable materials from outside its borders has shaken up markets for recovered materials. But as we have seen, markets for food and beverage cartons are evolving and growing. Material recycling facilities (MRFs) investing in positive sorting strategies to make a carton-grade are likely to experience these benefits.

As interest and investment in evolving a circular economy in Canada grows, we can look forward to sustainable recycling of cartons and other materials recovered through municipal recycling programs. However, we need to prepare consumers for the changes they need to make to improve the quality of their blue box and the value of the materials therein.

We need to continue efforts to give individuals knowledge that will improve the feedstock arriving at MRFs –ultimately reducing costs and contaminants to capture the value of these resources. For example, greater awareness and consistent behaviour is needed to ensure only the right materials are placed in the blue box and emptied before discarded.

As we acknowledge World Environment Day this month, lets resolve to do more to arm individuals with the knowledge they need to enhance the quality and value of resources recovered through recycling programs.