The milk cartons I send with my kid’s lunches are a no-no these days. Ditto the plastic sandwich bags. There’s a “zero garbage” lunch movement at their school.

Social pressure is on. It will take this type of garbage shame to meet the ambitious target set out by the City of Calgary.

Instead of 80 per cent household waste to the landfill, the city wants only 20 per cent. The new blue cart program being rolled out this spring to 300,000 homes is part of that movement. It costs homeowners $8 per month.

There is a certain euphoria to recycling. Calgary finally has door-to door recycling. We can talk with our friends in Vancouver without shame. And our program now includes plastics. Sixty-six trucks take paper, metal, glass and plastics to Metro Waste Paper Recovery Inc., where our stuff is sorted and then shipped to market. Apparently, our loads are nice and clean. We are recycling the right stuff, cleaning out the milk jugs, flattening the cardboard.

But our control is limited. The worldwide market for recyclables is volatile, just like the financial markets.

And it’s down. The city says how much it gets from the sale of recyclables is confidential. But we know that prices for cardboard, for instance, plummeted 60 to 70 per cent. Plastics are being stockpiled in some areas.

Yet, if we are to support this $24-million program, we need to understand the risk management model.
Other cities are millions of dollars in the hole as recycling prices fall.

Calgarians deserve a recycling financial spreadsheet on the website, and a lifecycle run down on our goods.

We can’t feel as pure as the driven snow about recycling. Much of our stuff will be shipped out of province or overseas. Then, shipped back to us as goods. Trucking, extracting, smashing, shipping —it all has an environmental cost.

I’d like proof recycling is better for the planet; are we offloading our landfill issues and creating problems to air and oceans elsewhere? Is legislating biodegradable packaging the better way to go?

Recycling might reduce waste shame, it shouldn’t stop waste questions.