My initial reaction to this article was fuming anger. I’m surrounded at home and at work by lazy-bones types who find recycling too time-consuming or effort-demanding than simply tossing their crap in the trash. Reading it through, I see now that the solutions proposed are not only worth consideration, but worth implementing – immediately. We as consumers (and particularly, we as North American consumers) are used to receiving our products with a certain amount of wasteful packaging. As the environmental crisis begins to peak, maybe it’s time to rip off that psychological band-aid and make some serious changes. As the article’s title says, recycling is the least effective R.

Now what do we do? Recycling isn’t the ecological Holy Grail we’ve come to think it is. So how do we get to the point where we start seriously reducing our total trash tonnage, recycling included? Environmentalists point out that convenience packaging is so pervasive that consumers aren’t given real options to dramatically reduce waste.

Perks and Hostovsky both cite Germany’s Green Dot movement, an ecological revolution that began with frustrated consumers literally ripping away excess packaging and handing it back to the checkout at grocery stores. That kind of action can increase awareness, but its real aim is to have producers stop creating that wasteful packaging in the first place.

Can we force manufacturers to reduce wasteful packaging? “That’s the central failure in waste-management policy in Ontario for the past 20 years,” says Perks. “We’ve failed to put the responsibility where the power really is.” Perks is talking about ‘extended producer responsibility,’ the idea, implemented heavily in Europe, that a manufacturer should see the total costs of a product through its full life cycle – so the company that makes the car engine, paint tin or plastic bottle should not only pay to create it, but should cover the costs of disposing of it, too. As a result, industry inevitably finds ecological solutions to packaging and waste in order to save money on disposal.

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