Plan­e­tary pre­dic­tions

A plas­tic fu­ture and other eco trends to watch in the new year


So many hopes are pinned on 2018. Even our politi­cians make crafty vi­sion boards and jour­nal “new year, new you” goals. Al­berta premier Rachel Not­ley re­peats her favourite mantra at least three times a day: “there will be Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line shov­els in the ground by the fall.”

And if On­tario PC leader Pa­trick Brown’s new year’s af­fir­ma­tions come true, he’ll bust up the prov­ince’s cap and trade love-in with Que­bec, re­place it with a rev­enue neu­tral car­bon tax and ki­bosh a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar-ded­i­cated-green-house-gas-slash­ing fund for stuff like tran­sit, build­ing retrofits and more – that and turn the lights out on the Green En­ergy Act. Hey, the man has dreams. Trou­ble is, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) also has high hopes for Canada: that we dras­ti­cally slash emis­sions and ratchet up our car­bon pric­ing schemes in a hurry, or else we won’t meet our cli­mate goals.

Plan B: get Kim Kar­dashian to start pro­mot­ing a new, low-fos­sil-fuel ver­sion of the Keto diet?

As the world chokes on green­house gases, here are my plan­e­tary pre­dic­tions for a greener 2018.

1. The global plas­Tics boom fu­els a zero wasTe up­ris­ing

De­spite global guilt over the crush­ing tide of ocean plas­tic pol­lu­tion, the in­dus­try at the heart of it all is omi­nously herald­ing a “re­nais­sance” for all things pla­s­ticky.

Turns out Amer­ica’s re­cent shale boom and glut of cheap gas is fu­elling bil­lions in in­vest­ments at some 260 new or ex­pand­ing poly­mer plants in the U.S. alone. Wouldn’t you know it, DowDuPont and friends are now per­fectly po­si­tioned to of­fer up boat­loads of vir­gin plas­tic to China as that coun­try’s ban on plas­tic re­cy­cling im­ports kicks in. That ban means cities from Halifax to Vic­to­ria and be­yond are stuck with grow­ing moun­tains of re­cy­clable plas­tic with nowhere to go.

Will es­ca­lat­ing frus­tra­tion with the pile-up spur an ex­is­ten­tial crisis for our old-school re­cy­cling sys­tems and usher in a new era of zero waste?

If the prov­ince backs a pol­luter-pays model for re­cy­cling be­fore the sum­mer elec­tion, we could see less pack­ag­ing and maybe a de­posit re­turn sys­tem for the 1.5 bil­lion plas­tic bot­tles that now go straight to land­fill ev­ery year.

2. on­Tario will fi­nally ban your ap­ple core from land­fill

That an­noy­ing govern­ment-funded jin­gle is right, good things do grow in On­tario, but for some rea­son a lot of it ends up rot­ting in land­fill.

De­spite green bins in most Toronto kitchens, a shame­ful 41 per cent of com­posta­bles end up in the trash. Restau­rants and gro­cery stores are even worse. The prov­ince’s Waste Free On­tario Act is promis­ing to fix the sit­u­a­tion, although so far it’s been all round ta­ble talks and no ac­tion.

A Nova Sco­tia-style ban on or­gan­ics to land­fill should be an­nounced be­fore June’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion, hope­fully spell­ing an end to gro­cery dump­sters full of fresh food and restau­rants and fac­to­ries di­vert­ing tons of food waste. The idea would take an­other year or two of study to de­liver, cau­tions Toronto En­vi­ron­men­tal Al­liance. Fin­gers crossed.

3. canada joins The e-car race

This will be the last year Volvo sells cars with gas-only en­gines. While France, Eng­land, Nor­way, In­dia and even China have all an­nounced fu­ture bans on gas and diesel cars, Canada has kept quiet on this front.

Tellingly, our elec­tric car sales lag far be­hind other in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions. With an eight-month wait­ing list for the most pop­u­lar e-car in Canada (Chevro­let Bolt), it’s lit­tle won­der.

The na­tional Zero-Emis­sions Ve­hi­cle Strat­egy promised for 2018 – if done right – should help boost e-car sales. Que­bec has al­ready started re­quir­ing deal­ers to sell a cer­tain per­cent­age of elec­tric cars.

4. The ve­gan revo­lu­Tion will be in­sTa­grammed

Ev­ery year around this time, food in­dus­try fore­cast­ers pre­dict trends for the com­ing year. Some are en­vi­ron­men­tally ob­nox­ious, like the rise of hy­per-pack­aged meal kits. Oth­ers are just id­i­otic. Who eats cake for break­fast?

But they agree on one thing: plant­based foods will be the hottest trend of 2018. Celeb in­vestors like Leonardo DiCaprio are sink­ing ma­jor cash into pea-pro­tein-based pro­cess­ing plants and start-ups (in­clud­ing Be­yond Meat’s no­to­ri­ous “bleed­ing” burger). There are even a bunch of NFLers charg­ing into this year’s play­offs on plant-pow­ered di­ets.

Now that Don­ald Trump’s USDA is killing an­i­mal wel­fare pro­tec­tions for or­ganic farm an­i­mals and the world’s top meat and dairy pro­duc­ers emit more green­house gasses than Exxon, Meat­less Mon­days might even spread to Tofu Tues­days and Fava Bean Fri­days.

5. in­dige­nous-owned green power lighTs The way

One-fifth of Canada’s green power is al­ready fully or partly owned by In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties (mostly hy­dro and wind, with some so­lar and biomass). In 2018, On­tario’s largest wind project is be­ing built on re­serve as a joint ven­ture part­ner­ship be­tween the Hen­vey In­let First Na­tions and Pat­tern De­vel­op­ment. Now that the feds have ear­marked $21.4 mil­lion over the next four years to con­vert re­mote diesel-fu­elled re­serves to re­new­ables, we’ll

start see­ing a lot more head­lines around In­dige­nous-owned so­lar, wind and be­yond, par­tic­u­larly if the feds’ $400 Arc­tic En­ergy Fund boosts a “re­new­ables first” ap­proach.

6. The feds will fail us on neon­ics buT over­haul Tox­ins regs

It sounds like a press release that was found stuck in a 20-year-old fax ma­chine, but the fed­eral govern­ment is promis­ing to fully ban as­bestos-con­tain­ing prod­ucts this year. The deadly can­cer-caus­ing ma­te­rial will no longer be al­lowed in brake pads (so me­chan­ics can breathe eas­ier), or na­tional build­ing code (wait, it wasn’t be­fore?), and the govern­ment will fi­nally sup­port list­ing chrysotile – the as­bestos mined in Canada un­til 2012 – as haz­ardous ma­te­rial.

Too bad they’re not plan­ning on do­ing the same for hy­dro­gen sul­phide, the deadly sour gas that’s sick­ened and, in a hand­ful of cases, killed oil field work­ers. Nor will they bring in a full ban on two neonic pes­ti­cides linked to bee deaths de­spite calls from en­vi­ron­men­tal and health groups. Sil­ver lin­ing: this could be the year the feds re­lent and over­haul Canada’s out­dated tox­ins regs. Adria Vasil joins a Face­book live chat hosted by En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence’s Tim Gray on Thurs­day, Jan­uary 11 at noon. eco­holic@now­ | @eco­holic­na­tion

China’s ban on plas­tic im­ports means cities from Vic­to­ria to Halifax may be left hold­ing the bag on re­cy­clables.

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