Monthly Archives June 2019

What Can The World Do With Its Plastic Waste?

plastic earth wasteOn December 31, 2017, China barred the import of most residential recyclables. After importing nearly half of the world’s plastic waste for 30 years, global waste plastic exports to China ground to a trickle overnight. In February 2017, China imported 581,000 metric tons of plastic waste. One year later, that number had dropped to 23,900 metric tons.

Researchers at the University of Georgia looked at how much plastic waste China imported from 1988 to 2016. Using that information they concluded that, by 2030, the ban may leave 111 million metric tons of plastic waste with nowhere to go. So what can be done about it? Many developed countries across the world have put a halt on domestic recycling programs until that question is answered.

On Bornholm Island in the Baltic Sea, the local government is adopting a new system. Bornholm officials say that by 2032, all waste on Bornholm will be treated as resources. They hope that, by using new technologies and methods of garbage sorting, recycling and minimizing waste in general, they can turn Bornholm into one of the first garbage-free communities in the world.

Of course, this requires alterations to the very way of life of people on Bornholm – new technologies aren’t enough on their own.  According to Jens Hjul-Nielsen, the CEO of the island’s waste management company, “How we get to that point is an exciting process, because there is so much we don’t know yet. We have a vision, but no clear-cut plan on how to get there.”

How about burning? Many within the trash industry think that burning plastic waste is the solution to the problem, but waste-to-energy projects pose their own very real risks to the environment. The EU already burns 42 percent of its waste. The U.S. burns 12.5 percent. China itself has over 300 waste-to-energy plants in operation, with the plans for several hundred more in the works.

It sounds sensible after all – incinerators burn plastic and other municipal waste, produce heat and steam to turn turbines and generate power for the local grid. But no one wants to live next to a plant filled with garbage, so finding locations to set up is difficult. They’re also more expensive to operate – so they generally charge more than landfills do. And studies have even shown that recycling plastic waste saves more energy than burning it by reducing the need to extract fossil fuel and process it into new plastic.

Perhaps the most egregious of these issues is the toxic emissions of acid gases, dioxins and heavy metals. While modern plants can scrub and filter these toxins if they are well-maintained and properly operated, experts worry that countries lacking strong environmental laws or enforcement may cut corners and try to save money on emissions. This is all not to mention the production of greenhouse gases. In 2016, waste incineration in the U.S. alone resulted in the equivalent of 12 million tons of carbon dioxide generated – over half of which came from plastics.

“We have a vision, but no clear-cut plan on how to get there.”

One promising new technology is called pyrolysis – plastics are shredded down and melted at low temperatures in oxygen-deprived chambers. The heat breaks the plastic down into hydrocarbons, which can be turned into diesel fuel. Pyrolysis produces very few pollutants, but it is still much cheaper to make diesel from fossil fuel than from waste plastic. However, as the technology ages and more research is done, it could be a promising method of plastic waste disposal in the future.

In terms of methodology, the Canadian West Coast remains unaffected by China’s plastic import ban. Under British Columbia’s 2014 program, plastics are processed within the province, and producers pay for it. Retailers, manufacturers, restaurants – they all pay fees to Recycle BC, and those fees are used to run a province-wide system to process plastic.

Elsewhere in Canada, municipalities are struggling so much to find places to send their recyclables after the ban that those who do find markets for the material are keeping them a secret. The city of Halifax, which was formerly shipping 80 percent of its plastic recyclables to China, refuses to name its facilities out of fear of being outbid.

The best option, of course, is to reduce the world’s reliance on plastic. It’s hard to feel like you’re making a difference by avoiding single-use straws and cups while mega-corporations dump tonnes of plastic into rivers across the planet, but when millions of people start to reuse bottles and bags, the plastic trash produced every year begins to diminish.

Until then, we can only hope that continued research into plastic waste reduction and recycling can keep our collective heads above water.

What happens when a package is shipped to you?

There’s a good chance your business sends or receives packages – perhaps a lot of them! But have you ever stopped to think about the journey one of these packages makes? By better understanding the shipping process, you can make more informed choices about your shipping solutions.

Whether you’re sending a package or receiving one, your package goes through several steps between point A and point B. So what happens when you make a purchase and are expecting a shipment?

The first thing that happens – or happened, even before you personally made your purchase – is the vendor chooses a company with which to ship your package. Whether its UPS or FedEx, the United States Postal Service or Canada Post, each shipping company will have different options and rates that will directly correlate to how fast the shipment is delivered.

Depending on what you’re shipping, you may have no choice but to use ground-based shipping. Say you’ve purchased a large supply of lithium batteries. Since they’re considered dangerous goods and can’t be transported via aircraft, ground shipping is the only option. In addition, pricing for different shipping methods varies – ground is cheaper, but notably slower. FedEx gives a good example of your options on their website:

 “For a real-world example, let’s say you need to ship an iPad from Dallas to your best friend in Chicago. Your package weighs 2 lbs., and your box is 13″ x 11″ x 2″. Using FedEx Ground, you will be able to ship that package for as little as $10.78 and it will arrive in only two business days… ‘When it Absolutely, Positively Has to Be There Overnight®,’ FedEx Express has you covered. If it is Monday, and you need that iPad delivered from Dallas to Chicago by the end of the day on Tuesday, FedEx Standard Overnight® will be your choice. This service will cost as little as $67.33 to get your package there the very next day.”

Depending on when you need your package to arrive by, and how specific that arrival date is, most companies will provide a range of options for you that balance price for speed. This factor impacts the price of shipping on your bill.

After your purchase is completed and before the vendor can utilize the shipping company it has chosen, the product in question must be located in a warehouse. Depending on the size of the vendor, this can either be a simple process, or very complicated. For example, Amazon has warehouses across the world and uses an algorithm to decide what gets stored where. A smaller company won’t have nearly the same quantity of stock. This variable also affects how much AI and other tech is involved in preventing human error in the order fulfillment process. Larger warehouses will have more tech available to help human employees pick the right item for your order and know exactly where to find it.

Once the product is located and properly packaged, it is sent out for delivery via whatever method has been chosen. This may mean it’s loaded onto a truck or aircraft. If you are ordering from overseas and it is an especially large package, it may even be loaded onto a ship. If you want to track your package’s progress, you may receive a notification saying the order has been shipped when it reaches this point, allowing you to better estimate its arrival time.

If your package is being shipped internationally, you also have to expect it to go through a security clearance process through your country’s customs agency. For example, when Canada Post is bringing parcels into Canada, it must present each incoming package to the Canada Border Services Agency. The CBSA then inspects each parcel and either holds them for review or clears them for entry into Canada. Generally speaking, if you haven’t ordered anything off the prohibited items list, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

As you can see, a lot of work goes into getting your package from point A to B, especially if the package is being shipped internationally. There is much to consider when shipping packages, especially for businesses that ship often and must balance the cost with their customer satisfaction.

Is “unlimited” good for Canadian consumers and businesses?

Guest blog post By Hernan Popper
Strategic-Partner – Schooley Mitchell of Winnipeg

From the early beginnings of wireless services in Canada, Canadians have been counting… Minutes first, texts later, roaming, and, of course data.

With new technologies and enhanced services, we got used to unlimited. Now we have unlimited calls, unlimited texting, even unlimited international calls with a cheap add-on to many plans.

Not having to count brings peace of mind, and previsibility. It’s like an all inclusive vacation, which may or may not be the best option. We don’t really think anymore before making that call or sending that text. We do still worry, every time, when we are using data intensive applications like video calling, online gaming, remote work and other applications.

The response to excessive charges, overages and ugly invoice surprises was data pooling (or data sharing). A shared amount of data to be shared among all users in the account, so heavier users can benefit from the unused allowance from light users.

This works, and has been the norm for many years.

Yesterday, wireless vendors announced “Unlimited Data” as the next big development to help Canadians compete in a digital world. The question is: “Is unlimited wireless data good for Canadian consumers and businesses?”

Rogers announced yesterday the availability of the new “Infinite plans”: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/06/12/1867543/0/en/Rogers-Introduces-Infinite-Wireless-Data-Plans-With-No-Overage-Charges.html

Later yesterday, Telus also announced their unlimited plans: https://mobilesyrup.com/2019/06/12/telus-promotional-plan-75-15gb-byod/

Early this morning, Bell posted their own unlimited plan: https://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Cell_phone_plans/Unlimited-plans

Is it really unlimited? Debatable, as users will be able to use as much data as required, but will receive a significant decrease in their download speeds after a set amount 10GB for Rogers, 15GB for Telus at this time. Speed will drop to almost unusable after this threshold. Of course, you can always buy more!

Is it good for consumers and businesses? Not necessarily.

These new plans come at a significantly higher rates than existing data share plans, starting at $75 without any hardware subsidy.

What this means is that, even if not required to have access to “unlimited”, consumers and businesses will pay significantly higher amounts for the same usage.

All those businesses, consumers and organizations who had actively controlled and monitored their usage, will undoubtedly pay more. Only exception are those users who had no control and kept paying for overages at outrageous rates.

At this time, it is understood that current packages will be grandfathered and not available in the future.

Paying more for something that you don’t need, is simply not good for you, nor any business or organization.

Before adding additional expenses categories and becoming “Your Vendors Watchdog”, Schooley Mitchell was, for over 30 years, “The Telecom Experts”. We’ve analysed invoices for over 21,000 clients. We know every telecom rate available in Canada, even before cellular services existed. Our clients know they are getting the right service, by the right vendor, at the right price.

If we have not had the opportunity to help your business or organization control your expenses, make sure, before signing any renewal, proposal or long term commitment, that you explore all options.

Because simply paying more is not an option.

#spendsmarter

Hernan Popper

Telecom Expert

Strategic Partner – Schooley Mitchell of Winnipeg

Should your business consider mobile payments?

By 2030, experts expect that digital wallets, like those used by Apple Pay, will be the primary source of payments around the world. Mobile payments are often as simple as using a physical card, and you can make secure purchases in stores, in apps, and online. So is it time for you to add mobile payments to your arsenal of merchant services solutions?

One thing to consider regarding mobile payments are the demographic of your customers. According to Big Commerce, which surveyed businesses that added Apple Pay, many of them chose to do so because they had a younger, millennial and Gen Z demographic in mind. This has been especially effective for businesses using online transaction options with mobile payments in mind.  The same business surveyed by Big Commerce answered that Apple Pay improved the outcome of their online sales, with fewer items being placed in a user’s ‘cart’ being abandoned due to a complicated checkout process.  

Mobile payments are useful for in-store transactions as well. With Apple Pay, anyone with an iPhone or certain iPads can utilize this method. Of course, not all of your customers will have Apple Pay equipped on their devices, or use Apple devices at all, so it is important to have a wide variety of POS solutions in this mobile era. Mobile payments are also generally secure, with multiple levels of authentication before confirming a purchase. For example, if you’re using your iPhone to make a payment via Apple Pay, you will likely have to use your thumbprint. This might also be a reason why many customers would be attracted to the option of using mobile payments to make their purchases.

Of course, there are plenty of risks to mobile payments as well. High-profile data breaches make overarching security a large concern for both business owners and customers. While the payments are generally less expensive than traditional point-of-sale systems, most still require you to purchase new technology and upgrade your terminals. With the variety of mobile devices on the market, a one-size fits all option can be very difficult to implement.

In conclusion, if you are willing to outfit your Point-of-Sale terminals with the necessary tech, mobile payments can be a rather convenient addition to your merchant services solutions that can also help improve the customer experience. Online check-out buttons attached to mobile payments have proven to make online sales easier for merchants and buyers. If you are hoping to attract a younger demographic, mobile payment solutions can be a great way to go about it.

Is a mobile payment solution right for your business?