A new report is calling on the Ontario government to implement an incentive for the public to recycle plastic bottles to reduce plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.
The report entitled, Turning the Plastic Tide: How to Protect the Great Lakes and Fight Plastic Pollution, recommends that the province introduce a deposit return on plastic bottles to dramatically increase recycling rates.
“Plastic pollution is a serious and growing problem in Ontario’s waterways. Studies have found more than six million bits of plastic per square kilometre in the Great Lakes. That’s equal to the amount found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Natalija Fisher, water program manager with Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based environmental organization.
The report states that jurisdictions with deposit return programs recover between 72 to 95 per cent of the plastic bottles for recycling. Ontario is one of two Canadian provinces without a deposit return on plastic bottles. The report concludes that less than half of the plastic bottles sold in the province are recycled, and the rest—an estimated one billion bottles each year—end up in the landfill or the environment.
According to the report’s findings, a deposit return program for single-use plastic bottles could direct funds towards protecting and restoring the Great Lakes.
“We know that deposit return systems work—Ontario already has a successful deposit return program for wine and beer bottles. Other provinces, like New Brunswick, have plastic bottle deposit return programs that are helping to raise funds for environmental initiatives,” said Fisher. “We can do the same in Ontario.”