Wednesday, November 4, 2015



Politicians and environmentalists are joined at the hip in a mischievous partnership in how they approach their goals which usually are wonderfully beneficial for the public if they can be achieved without dubious accounting and outrageous fibbing.  
Pols and activists see nothing wrong with misleading to the point of outright fabrication in overstating their case. 
And to hell with what it costs the middle class taxpayer. They're just there to be plucked and eaten like a fat but stupid hen.
The latest example has emerged from a costly swamp where it has waded for decades.
CBC just did a TV program about whether those disposable cups in coffee shops are really recycled if they're put in the special receptacle. Turns out that often they're not, for a variety of reasons.
And the Star had a front-page story about a Toronto apartment resident who goes to considerable effort to separate his garbage only to see the collection truck far below throw it all together.
The "facts box" in the Star reveals the underpinning of the issue. It costs $111 a tonne to send the city's waste to landfill, but $343 a tonne if it is diverted to a recycling facility.
So the city and commercial operations, from restaurants and shops to industries and offices, save a lot if they only pretend to recycle.
Since Toronto produces a lot of garbage - 2,256 daily tonnes in 2013 - Toronto's latest landfill will be full in 2026 if the diversion rate does not improve.
Similar warnings have been around for decades. Of course they have because it costs so much to recycle. The dirty secret is everyone in the city would save considerably, especially in taxes or indirectly in rent,if there was a lot less recycling and the politicians and the save-the-earth folks were honest about how they deal with a problem that is never going to go away.
The environment bounces around in public approval polling. Some years it's at the top of our concerns, other years it slides below unemployment and the economy. Ironically, when you consider the costs, the environment might sink more rungs in the polls as Canadians contemplate how much it costs us as we have been turned into a nation of garbage pickers.
Back in my past when I had to produce five or six Sun columns a week, I decided to take a new interdisciplinary course in environmental science at U of T.
 I had motivations besides it would be useful to have another degree.  I thought the professors would give me grist for my mill, the thousands of columns and editorials I had to produce. Then the environmental movement bugged me, from the early mouthy days of Pollution Probe to the holier-than-thou spokesmen who keep giving us guilt trips about just about anything we consume.
I remember a study a group of us made of the city's landfill projects. That came useful as background when activists killed the sensible plans to ship Toronto's garbages by safer rail to huge holes in the middle of nowhere. Instead we had to spend a fortune carting stuff to the States and then buying a landfill closer to the highways down which the huge trucks rumbled as a pollution and safety problem.
 I remember my term report based on a Northwestern University study that organic food is a bit of a fraud because unless doses of herbicides and pesticides soak the plants, they're the same as careful organic products no matter what they were fed.
Much to the disgust of radical classmates, there was not much proof that genetically-modified food were awful menaces. After all, basically scientists were just mimicking what smart farmers had done for generations.
As I wandered from City Hall to Queen's Park to Ottawa, and listened to the ministries and commissioners and activists,  and then read their polluted-sky-is-falling reports, my columns started to reflect some simple truths inside the hysteria.
For example, the regional works commissioner confided in me that he had been renting warehouses to store old newspapers because there was no market for them even if newspapers like the Sun were buying all the recycled newsprint they could get. Some years we were separating old newspapers from garbage at considerable cost only to burn a lot of it because of the glut.
Of course we should recycle but when it costs three times what it does to bury or burn, shouldn't there be a debate about some of that cost? Should we ignore that technology may well help us cope in another 11 years when our dump is full but has been turned by research into a useful mine?
Our politicians have caved on all the major issues. They let the pop industry get away with eliminating returnable bottles. Toronto tap water is just as good, and some times better, than bottled water (which is often tap water run through a filter) so why don't we tax the hell out of the zillions of water containers that never disintegrate?
Look at the international scandal of ethanol. This addition to our gasoline costs more in energy to produce than it saves, and now we have a world flooded with extra oil. Yet agribusiness goliath have conned subsidies out of provincial, state and federal governments to produce a product that all marinas warn against because of the damage to outboards and small engines.
Yet the politically-correct folk of the environmental movement insist that we have to pay for their dubious attempts to save energy no matter what the cost. For example, take the ancient machine called a windmill, rename it a turbine, and ask for its product to be supported from taxes even when there are no net savings.
There is a political reform movement where no government expenditures are taken for granted but traced back to their roots to see if all the costs and steps were still justified.
 Isn't it time for this city staggering under its taxes and needs in transit and transportation to re-evaluate whether we are really getting the best bang for our buck when it costs three times more to fiddle with our garbage than it does to bury it?

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