Opinion

Michaels: Take my job and shove it in the recycling bin

Have you ever heard a local government employee take to the airwaves and advocate for the end of your job?

If not, you’re lucky. It’s an entirely galling experience that caused me this Thursday to bark a few print-banned words at the stereo in my car, an innocent bystander.

For the record, the profanity-prompting offender was the Regional District’s Waste Reduction department. After a long print campaign—oh, the irony— they took to the radio to hock quasi green rhetoric about creating a paper free community.

By their estimates, the newspapers they still need to most effectively disperse their messages, as well as flyers, and all things between should be viewed online alone. This, they say, will ebb the flow of the 13 or so pounds of paper they’ve estimated each household gets a month—the community should go newspaperless.

It would make the world a happier, less wasteful place. The landfills would be less bogged down, and rainbows would shoot out of trees, and we’d all join hands and sing kumbaya—or something to that effect.

Of course the downside of this endeavour is that getting rid of paper products would effectively snuff out the Kelowna Capital News, the Daily Courier and all smaller publications in between.

Our online presence isn’t where the bread is buttered, so to speak.

So these two somewhat hearty economic generators, which locally employ several hundred men and women with relatively well-paying jobs, would cease to be by a trite mandate to “go paperless.”

One could ask the obvious question: Can the economy really afford to haemorrhage relatively well educated, somewhat well paid employees?

But the answer to that is far too obvious: No, Kelowna can’t afford anything of the sort.

So, maybe this question is better: How well conceived is the plan to target newsprint?

Most people have long since reduced their paper intake and the newspaper industry itself has gone out of its way in its lengthy history to be less smoggy in its approach to business. Your local publications are printed on paper that’s likely been recycled more than once, and the inks are just a distant cousin to their toxic predecessors.

They’re hardly what I’d call the worst environmental offender, which brings me to the best part.

The supposedly Earth loving lot at the regional district are promoting their ill conceived endeavour to get people off pulp by offering up an electronic tablet as the bounty.

Oh, the humanity.

Take away a  product that can be recycled again, and replace it with something that will be thrown into a landfill in the next couple of years, to sit in perpetuity.

It’s brilliant!

You don’t even need to visit the fact that there are developing nations suffering from the ill effects of bringing our collective lives online, but I will anyway.

According to a paper published in Oxford University Press, the e-waste from yesterday’s not-so-cool stuff is between 20 and 50 million tonnes annually.

“In the past, such e-waste mostly emanated from Australasia, Western Europe, Japan and the US. Disposal through landfills in these nations is generally illegal because of the risks to soil, water, residents and workers posed by the dozens of poisonous chemicals and gases in these machines,” writes Richard Maxwell, professor and chair of Media Studies at Queens College.

“So vast amounts of e-waste was dumped in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Today, many of those economies are booming, so these regions are generating immense levels of their own e-waste.”

Now that, dear government employees, is a problem that needs to be tackled.

Or maybe you haven’t heard about it? Should have read your local newspapers, as they’ve offered a few insights in the past.

Kathy Michaels is a Capital News reporter.

kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com

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