Climate Saga: Corporations

2021-12-14

 |  Science & The Environment

“Climate change isn’t real”, someone types in their Google search bar in the YouTube video called “If Google was a guy”. Google guy provides a bunch of results to links to prove that, on the contrary, climate change “is” real. The person repeats the search but, this time, with the keyword highlighted as “climate change “ISN’T” real”, which forces Google to show her the one result for a link to a climate change denier website.

This applies to real life as well. Despite the reports on the declining condition of the world, some of them irreversible now, we take in our day to day weather to represent the climate as a whole. We go around taking for granted vast wildfires or floods causing entire regions to be evacuated. It seems that as long as it is nice and/or raining enough, we get to generalize that to the rest of the world and rest assured that all is calm.

What is it that makes us so incredulous about these changes? Is it because the climate, as an entity, can’t take us to court for the unwanted changes we are burdening it with? Which begs the question: Who is in charge of taxing customers for saving the environment via tax on recycling and who gets to take the polluters to court on behalf of the environment? Here is a BBC Article on “Who is really to blame for climate change”.

Maybe, what we need is a little transparency on where all the environmental fees go. Who is taking it and what are they doing with it? Why are we, as customers, paying for environment maintenance, while corporations are collecting the money without having to answer to anyone?

According to RCBC, “Charging EHF (Environmental Handling Fees) ensures that consumers accept responsibility for the entire lifecycle of the product that they are purchasing, including the final disposal. This fee is charged at the point of purchase to allow “free” recycling drop-off. This increases participation in the recycling program. The retailer may choose to display the EHF separately or as part of the total cost of the product. Displaying the fee separately helps educate consumers on the cost of disposal. For a complete list of the different Environmental Handling Fees charged on electronics, visit the Return-It website.”

In contrast, Plastic Pact Canada, an independent initiative, has put forward nine rules for corporations to follow. According to GlobeNewsWire’s article, “The Golden Design Rules are voluntary, independent and time-bound commitments that outline specific design changes, aligned with globally recognized technical guidelines. Companies are each independently choosing to commit to individual rules based on which are most relevant to their packaging portfolios.”, meaning, companies are not really required to comply with any guidelines and/or standards to make their packaging part of the circular economy.

Canada will ban single use plastics by the end of 2021 as per the CTV article here, but this law only applies to a handful of items and will not affect the regular packaging we get for items we buy online or in person, garbage bags, snack food wrappers, etc. The reality is that unless the ban is expanded to more items, considering that only 9% of the plastics are currently recycled in Canada and that the plastic production will double by 2035, the plastic pollution will only get worse. Oceana Canada explains why 88% of Canadians want the Federal Government to expand the ban.

The Balance argues: “Those with responsibility for recycling have to do the best they can with whatever packaging is generated, but a proactive approach is to push the conversation further upstream to the packaging and product design team. The inclusion of recycled content is a good way to increase demand for recycled material and thus can help promote recycling. In the case of transport packaging, one important opportunity is that of substituting reusable packaging for single trip packaging with an example from Subaru.”

Finally, I believe that the idea that we need to follow through is that if companies are adding the environment fee in a separate row on the invoice in order to educate customers on recycling practices, there should be a way to hold corporations accountable too. To educate corporate leaders on the harm in their practices and require them (rather than have them dain to volunteer) to adhere to a circular economy and of social responsibility towards the environment as its own entity. Rules and regulations that would go beyond printing recyclable signs on the packaging as a formality, a step in the Greenwashing process or, worse, as a marketing campaign that targets environmental conscious customers.

Further reading: 

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/publications/insights-on-law-and-society/volume-19/insights-vol–19—issue-1/standing–who-can-sue-to-protect-the-environment-/

https://www.wcel.org/program/climate-law-in-our-hands/bc-communities/bc-class-action

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/publications/insights-on-law-and-society/volume-19/insights-vol–19—issue-1/standing–who-can-sue-to-protect-the-environment-/

https://academic.oup.com/ojls/article/38/4/841/5140101

https://www.bottlebill.org/index.php/current-and-proposed-laws/canada/british-columbia

https://www.thesource.ca/en-ca/envHandlingFee