Hurricane Dorian is now a Category 3 major storm and is still gathering strength as it moves toward Florida, where it could make landfall as soon as late Monday as a Category 4 hurricane.
The payments landscape has been evolving at a rapid clip over the past decade, thanks in part to massive demand for electronic payments and a quickly growing base of consumers who would rather pay for their goods with anything but cash.
That trend won’t stop anytime soon. In fact, by 2020, 40 percent of U.S. consumers will be made up of Gen Z. This demographic doesn’t remember the world before the internet, Amazon, and apps. They accept nothing less than digital, and they won’t be constrained by anything they can’t carry in their pocket.
When it comes to the demand for efficiency, efficacy, and immediacy, Gen Z is a tidal wave that will wash away any institution not willing to adapt. And the first place to undertake that adaptation? Mobile payments. Take a look below at some of the growing trends of the mobile payments industry – which is projected to become the second most common payment method after debit cards by 2022.
Mobile Point of Sale
Imagine a store with no checkout, replaced by sales staff carrying mobile-point-of-sale (mPOS) devices. While not so viable in places where you’re buying a large volume of items such as a grocery store, stores that sell at lower volume and higher cost could benefit greatly. Your staff member is right there with the customer, answering their questions and pointing them in the right direction. When they make a choice, the sale is conducted right then and there and the customer gets to walk out the door with their purchase immediately.
These same devices can be taken out of the brick-and-mortar location as well and used at trades shows, festivals and food trucks. An mPOS can go anywhere your customer does, and accept payments from phones, watches and credit cards.
People are on their phones constantly. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it’s incredibly important to take it into account when considering how you accept payments. Anyone who has spent any amount of time learning about online purchasing knows that the checkout cart is where most sales die. In fact, every redirection, click and new page that a customer experiences from the moment they decide they want an item to the moment they click “Confirm Purchase” is another hurdle to the final sale.
What if your customer could purchase directly through your Facebook or Instagram page without ever needing to redirect to your website? 60 percent of Instagram users claim they find new products they want to purchase on the app. The more streamlined your payment process is, the more impulse buys you’ll get.
Retail, Wholesale, and Automation
Over the next few years, retail and wholesale are expected to grow into interactive, highly-automated systems. Let’s make two assumptions.
First, payments and service development will continue to be customer-driven and focused on efficiency. Second, that these customer-driven systems will continue to innovate and change, embrace new technologies, and develop extremely tailored solutions for vertical markets.
Mobile payment solutions embrace this automation, and go hand-in-hand with the dream of worker-less stores. From epiphany to delivery, the entire sales process runs through your phone, no matter where you are. This leads to lower overhead and a faster sales process. And if Gen Z wants anything, it’s speed.
The old spy-novel standby is the trusty fingerprint scanner, but biometrics have evolved. Face recognition, iris and hand scans, DNA tests and voice recognition – they’re all real, and rapidly overtaking traditional methods like PINs and passwords when it comes to identification and authentication.
Fraudsters never stop innovating, and mobile payments must continue to combat them at every turn. Biometrics are a more reliable way for merchants to verify the identity of their customers in order to prevent scams.
When it comes to security, your phones built-in biometric security means that not only are mobile payments fast and efficient – they’re also very safe.
According to Canada’s telecom and TV services ombudsman in April, incorrect billing charges accounted for 16.5 percent of all issues raised in 9,831 complaints to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services over a six-month period. In fact, billing errors were the top issue for almost every type of service.
The second most common sore point? Misleading and undisclosed contract terms. Overall, complaints increased by 68 percent from last year’s mid-year report.
Studies have shown over 80 percent of telecommunications bills contain errors. Clerical errors, tax errors, contract discrepancies, double-metering… there are plenty of different ways you can incur billing errors – and you can bet they won’t be fixed unless you notice them and make a point of it.
Most professionals simply don’t have the time to do a thorough audit of their telecom bills. Instead, they employ the weigh it and pay it method – if the number is similar to the one from the previous year, they sign off. But what happens when that number has been wrong from the beginning? Or you’re just so busy you don’t notice a change? Here are a few of the most common errors to look for on your bill:
Charges for services you’ve never had:
It’s not uncommon to be billed for services you’ve never used. Maybe you’re paying for extra lines or voicemails when you don’t have enough phones to use them. Maybe it’s cloud services, call filtering or ring-back tones. Maybe you have an older plan that is charging you extra for North American roaming, despite calling in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico being included in your regular service package. While usually not hyper-expensive on their own, these services are billed every single month, which can add up quick!
Charges for services you used to have:
Being billed for disconnected services is another common source of billing errors. You’d think cancelling a service is a fairly cut-and-dry process, especially when you’re provided with a stop-billing date. Unfortunately, according to studies, at least 25 percent of cancelled orders continue to bill the client after the stop-billing date.
Do you sometimes wonder why billing errors almost always go in favour of the provider as opposed to the client? While we might like to think the big bad telcos intend to take our money without providing the services we need, it’s not so simple. In reality, there are plenty of billing errors in favour of the client – but the providers are extremely vigilant when it comes to watching their profitability and correcting their mistakes. Unfortunately for us, they aren’t watching our bottom lines, so errors in their favour rarely get noticed. These errors usually go hand in hand with contract renewals and the installation of new services. It’s often a simple case of an error in the entry of your new rates.
There are tons of other places you might find billing errors – services not under contract, usage in excess of your plan, obsolete and outdated services, multi-account billing by the same vendor… the list goes on. Keeping an eye on your bills to make sure you’re paying the right price and getting proper credits for billing errors can feel like a full-time job, but it needs to be done if you’re hoping to maximize your bottom line!
We’ve all had a similar experience — you get a bill in the mail, scan down to the bottom of the letter for the cost, and your eyes bulge. More than you expected? We know the feeling.
We also know that keeping your expenses down while maintaining the speeds and data you need to operate can be a delicate balance. With so many different options, how can you be sure you’re getting a great deal, as opposed to a raw one? Here are some tips for managing your own personal network to ensure you’re getting what you need without breaking the bank.
1: Assess your bills
You need to make sure you understand exactly what you are paying each month — and what you’re getting for those payments. Are you paying full price? Are you paying for services you don’t need or want? How about services you don’t even realize you have access to? Are you signed up for a minimum-term contract with penalties for breaking it? If you don’t understand any aspect of your bill or service arrangement, call customer service and have them explain it to you!
This information is important not only for your own records, but also for your negotiations. If you know exactly what you’re paying for, you’ll know exactly how to bargain for better prices. Ensure that you review your account information, billing information and contract so you have a thorough understanding of where your money is going.
2: Know what you need
It’s very important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes you see a deal that sounds too good to pass up, but you need to remember that a deal is only valuable if it’s something you’re actually going to use! Why pay for a great deal on a home phone and cable bundle if you only use your cell phone and stream Netflix? Even if you’re paying a reduced price, if you’re not using the product, it’s not worth your money.
3: Pay on time, in full
Phone and internet providers want your business — as long as you’re paying for it. As soon as you’re not making timely payments, your business is no longer a priority. Write down your payment dates and pay them in full, on time, every month. As long as you keep consistent and you’re always paying on time, you have leverage to use in your service negotiations. After all, the company wants to keep you as a customer! You can use that to bargain down prices.
So now you’ve assessed your payments, you’ve trimmed the fat and gotten rid of the things you don’t need and you’ve paid your bills in full and on time. Your service provider wants to keep you around! Now is the time to haggle.
Don’t accept the posted price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you can’t get a deal from the person you’re talking to, escalate the call and ask for the retention department. Come prepared with alternative options and services if they try to call your bluff – with the amount of competition, you can squeeze even the large companies to give you a discount.
Finally, remember to be polite and professional. Sometimes, discounts are discretionary – which means an employee can decide whether or not to offer them to a customer. If you’re rude and aggressive, you’re much less likely to be offered the discount.
Plastic vs. Carbon
You’ve probably heard the term “carbon footprint” before in reference to how much your lifestyle contributes to creating the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change. In the same vein, your plastic footprint is the metric used to judge how much plastic you will contribute to the global trash pile.
Obviously, the two go hand-in-hand. In fact, one of the best ways to start reducing your carbon footprint is by diminishing your plastic use. That’s because plastic production is one of the most significant sources of carbon dioxide production on the planet. But plastic’s effect on your carbon footprint is just the beginning.
On average, a regular PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottle takes 450 years to degrade. Other types of plastics can take up to 1000 years. In other words, not only does our plastic consumption contribute to climate change, but our bottles, straws and bags will also outlive us several times over.
While our individual efforts often seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the production and pollution of large corporations, avoiding single-use plastics is a step everyone can take. Here are some methods to help reduce your plastic footprint on a personal level.
Reusable utensils with takeout:
Humans are creatures of convenience, and takeout is one of our ultimate creations in that regard. Unfortunately, takeout is usually packaged in plastic, carried in plastic, and consumed with plastic.
By turning down the single-use cutlery offered with your meal and instead using reusable forks, spoons and chopsticks, you can help cut down on your waste. If you want to take it a step further, bring a reusable container with you the next time you go out to dinner and ask to pack any leftovers in that instead of a single-use Styrofoam box.
Plastic bags clog sewers and storm drains, litter streets and contaminate our oceans, where they’re eaten by fish and suffocate seabirds. Keep reusable bags in your home, car and at work to cut back on your footprint – specifically, your plastic footprint
Experts still argue whether or not plastic bag bans and the focus on reusable bags are actually better for the environment, greenhouse gases-wise. After all, plastic bags are small, light and easy to transport whereas shipping an equivalent number of reusable bags takes a lot more fuel, space and energy.
Be Toiletry Aware:
Toothbrushes! Everyone has one, and they’re almost universally disposable. Instead of buying a pack of plastic toothbrushes and tossing them out after you’re done with them, look into a bamboo or electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are more efficient and produce less waste than regular plastic, while bamboo toothbrushes are compostable (though you may have to trim off the bristles!)
Safety razors are a great alternative to disposable razors and razor heads. Hold on to the dull blades after switching them out, and when you have enough to fill a small glass jar, take them off to be recycled!
Cotton swabs – the eponymous Q-Tips – often end up polluting the environment after being used to clean ears or apply creams or ointments. Next time you’re buying a box, look for the ones with paper sticks instead of plastic. They’re much quicker to degrade and work just as well.
Raise Your Reusable Goblet:
Humans drink a lot. Whether its coffee, water or something in between, the combination of a reusable mug and reusable water bottle can help you drastically reduce your plastic footprint. Bring your own mug to Starbucks or Tim Hortons and ask them to fill it for you. Keep a water bottle handy at your desk to fill at the cooler. You can even pick up a stainless steel or glass straw for those hot days when you’re opting for iced coffee.
Reducing your plastic use isn’t too difficult – but it can be frustrating when comparing your impact to that of corporations and governments. Despite this, by swapping out a few single-use plastics for reusable options, you can significantly reduce your personal plastic footprint and encourage others to do the same. The more that do, the more pressure can be put on the powers that be to do the same.
Picture this: It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, and you’re getting ready to grill up some burgers in the backyard. You’ve sliced up some onion and tomato, pulled the cheese and lettuce out of the fridge, and ground up your very own blend of 70/30 lean-to-fat beef. Finally, you reach for your favorite brioche buns when you see it: the speckles of blue and green mold.
You could yell for the kids to get out of the pool and get changed so you can head to the grocery store and pick up some buns. You could make an order on a food delivery app and pray they get the right kind to you in a timely manner. Or, you can grab your cell phone, tap a few buttons, and head out to the yard.
You’ve laid out all your ingredients in a perfect assembly line, seasoned your patties, and pressed them on the grill with a satisfying sizzle. And just as you pull your burgers off the heat at a perfect medium-rare, you hear a faint buzzing noise above you. You look up to see a large rectangle adorned with six sets of spinning blades surrounding a sturdy plastic case. It hovers above you for a moment before slowly descending towards an empty section of grass in the yard. It lands and the blades come to a halt. You walk over, click open the plastic case, and retrieve a fresh bag of brioche buns from inside. You close the case, take a few steps back, and the rectangle comes to life, blades whirring, and flies off once more into the sky.
Though it may still sound like sci-fi, this was the future promised to us by countless tech CEOs a few years ago, chief among them being Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Back in December of 2013, Bezos announced that Amazon would be flying delivery drones to customers within five years. That deadline has since passed – but not because of the technology. Instead, it’s the regulation and logistics that are holding back the tide.
Alphabet (the parent company of Google) has a startup called Wing, which became the first drone delivery company to gain the FAA’s approval to make commercial deliveries in the United States in April. Other companies are still waiting for their status to be greenlit, such as Amazon Air, Uber Eats, and most recently, UPS.
The shipping giant has formed a new subsidiary called UPS Flight Forward Inc. and applied for their certification with the ultimate goal of running one of the first commercial drone delivery programs in the United States.
In March, UPS partnered with drone startup Matternet to transport medical samples via drone across a WakeMed hospital system in Raleigh, N.C., which became the first FAA sanctioned use of a drone for routine, revenue producing flights under a contractual delivery agreement.
Just last month, Amazon announced its new commercial delivery drone, promising that it would be delivering packages to customers within months. Of course, Amazon doesn’t have a great track record for meeting their deadlines in the air-delivery space. Amazon’s drone design has seen more than 20 iterations since its announcement in 2013, yet it remains the stringent regulatory restrictions holding back the rollout of their delivery program.
In the U.S., the major piece of regulation you’d need to operate a drone delivery service is called Part 135 certification under the Federal Aviation Administration, which applies to “air carriers and operators.” Drones are considered under the same umbrella as airplanes under federal law, and they’re subject to the same certification processes. The Part 135 certification allows for approved drones to fly at night, over people, and outside the operator’s direct line of sight.
Another factor to consider is public perception. In 2017, a PEW Research Center survey showed that 54 percent of Americans polled disapproved of drones flying near residential areas at all.
Whether or not this opinion has remained the same in the past two years, it hasn’t stopped these companies from continuing their preparation for the future. With UPS joining the fray, Wing receiving their Part 135 certification, and Amazon announcing – again – that Prime Air will be up and running soon, the future of a sky filled with delivery drones doesn’t seem all that far off.
Internet equality is severely lacking in rural areas in the United States, where the price of service costs significantly more than in cities, and where connectivity and speed are much worse. The Federal Communications Commission found that – as of 2018 – less than 70 percent of rural Americans have access to broadband connection. Although the advent of 5G should reduce some of this inequality, finding solutions is still challenging. Here are some examples of effective responses to the lack of internet access in rural America.
In an article discussing the challenge of bringing highspeed broadband to rural Virginia, The Roanoke Times succinctly depicts the central problem with relying on telecom companies to provide adequate services in rural communities.
“It’s hard to blame the telecom companies,” the article reads. “They’re for-profit entities, but that black ink starts turning into red ink if they have to lay miles and miles of fiber across rural America.”
So often, the solutions to the challenge of rural internet access come not from the telecom companies, but from governments or the communities themselves.
For example, the state legislature of Virginia passed a bill that “would allow utilities – such as Dominion Power and Appalachian Power – to install cables that would carry broadband into hard-to-reach areas.”
Another bill would allow localities to “create a ‘service district’ that can contract with internet service providers to extend broadband into underserved areas… this gives local governments a tool to take matters into their own hands.”
In the example of Virginia, which is seeing bipartisan efforts taken to bring all of its residents broadband connectivity, the onus is on the state government to take responsibility where telecoms can’t or won’t. In other instances, municipalities have taken charge.
Take, for example, the case of Tuttle, Oklahoma, which completely lost its internet and cable service after the local telecom provider went bankrupt, becoming the largest city in the United States – with a population of 6,000 – without service. Private telecom providers were concerned about the lack of profit and weren’t interested in providing their services to Tuttle. The only solution for the city, along with other rural Oklahoma communities, was to set up municipal broadband networks.
But while making broadband a public utility might sound like a great solution for plenty of rural communities and under-serviced towns, it isn’t that simple. As Voice of America News (VOA) writes, “At the moment, more than two dozen states have limitations on city-run broadband – from restrictions on parameters to entire bans.” Attitudes against government interference have made this trend pervasive, leaving small towns in the cyber-dust.
However, there are some legislatures that are seeing the error in this.
“Arkansas, for example, passed a law in 2011 stating ‘a government entity may not provide, directly or indirectly, basic local exchange service,’” VOA explains. “Earlier this year, the Arkansas Legislature unanimously voted to repeal that ban.”
Explaining the state’s decision, Arkansas state senator Breanne Davis told Citylab, “We were one of the five states that had the most restrictive laws [on municipal broadband] in the nation, and [ranked] almost last in broadband [access].”
So far, municipally run broadband networks have been a success. In Tuttle, excess revenue is even being directly reinvested into better connectivity for rural residents. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mayor Andy Berke enthusiastically promotes the municipal fiber optic network which has “exceeded all expectations.” Berke believes the new network is responsible for the city’s low unemployment rate.
It can be expensive and unrealistic for private telecom providers – even the big-name companies with exorbitant wealth – to create highspeed broadband networks in small towns and rural communities. However, problems arise when a large portion of America’s population is excluded from the ever-increasing amount of services that are exclusively offered online. The onus, then, is on the government – whether it be federal, state or local – to step in and create a solution for its citizens. The equity of quality of life is at stake.
As the number of electronic transactions grow, so do the opportunities for cybercriminals to steal money. As a merchant, you need to provide the best payment security possible, so your customers don’t have to worry about their data. As a customer, you need to be aware of the threats against you – and the technological advances that help combat them.
From the cardboard and celluloid cards pre-1958 to the biometrics, geolocation and tokenization security of today, the merchant services industry has been evolving in the security department since the very beginning. Here are some of the important aspects of payment security and how they’ve developed over the years.
PCI Compliance refers to the security standards established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council in 2006, and they’re an important indicator of security status today. These standards were created to ensure that anyone who processes, transmits or maintains payment data has proper security in place. PCI standards are frequently adapted, and they differentiate security measures for merchants based on both the volume and type of transactions they process. In other words, PCI compliance is both very important, and very confusing.
In 1958, the first plastic payment card was created. By the 1970s, we’d seen the addition of tamper-resistant signature panels, microprint security, and card embossing designed to protect card carriers from nefarious counterfeiters.
Electronic security found its stride in the mid-80s with the development of risk scoring and real-time electronic authorization designed to protect against fraud. In the 90s, we saw the addition of the CVV security code for magnetic stripes, and the first inklings of EMV chip card technology. EMV chips were added into payment cards because of the greater payment security it offers, plus its resilience against “skim” scams compared to magnetic strips. Chip technology also uses encryption and tokenization to further protect against theft. In fact, the Department of Justice estimates that 86 percent of identity theft cases originate with existing account information. This information is protected by EMV chips in the case of a breach.
Speaking of breaches – some major ones took place in the 2000s. In 2003, it was the DPI data breach that saw eight million card accounts compromised. In 2005, CardSystems Solutions was breached; 40 million cards were compromised. In 2010, ALDI debit card accounts and pins were stolen from nearly 1,100 grocery stores, and the following year Michaels was breached for the first of three times in three years, potentially compromising PINs and three million payment card accounts. In 2013, Target was breached with 40 million payment card accounts stolen and an estimated industry cost of $248 million.
This is all to say that, as security tech advances, so do the threats they protect against. This digital arms race continues today, as we shift away from static solutions to dynamic, more resilient technology.
The Future of Payment Security
The payment card industry projected $31.3 billion in global card losses to security threats in 2018. Another study found that retailers stand to lose some $130 billion in fraud between 2018 and 2023. No matter which way you look at it, financial institutions across the globe must push to be more innovative than the fraudsters if they want to keep their – and your – money safe.
Some of those innovations include tokenization, biometric data, geolocation, improved chip tech, and an ever-increasing base of data analytics. In fact, the technology is becoming so impressive that tech-wizard hackers are no longer the only major threat in day-to-day fraud. Instead, it’s the social hackers using card-not-present scams that have begun to take advantage of less tech-savvy audiences – and retailers are ill-prepared to fight it.
The faster we connect, digitize, and innovate our daily transactions, the more risks are introduced. The payment security landscape is akin to the Wild West, and it is more important today than ever before to make sure your electronic payment processing environment is as secure as it can be.
Thankfully, security is a deterrent to fraudsters in itself. Hackers tend to search for low-risk, high-reward options. Much like keeping your Point-of-Sale terminal under lock and key when it’s not in use, adequate payment processing security is usually enough to make your accounts unattractive targets. After all, you can’t get breached if no one is willing to try!
You might participate in a municipal compost program at home – or maybe not. Either way, if you’re looking to reduce waste in the workplace, one effective way could be to take the initiative and start a compost program at your place of work. There are a host of good reasons to take this initiative, from reducing your environmental footprint to saving your business money on waste disposal expenses. Here are some tips on how to begin.
In a piece on workplace composting, ToughNickel suggests you begin by putting together a workplace compost committee to get the idea off the ground and answer some of the burning questions. Who will be in charge of keeping the compost area tidy and empty it regularly? Will building management need to be involved? Will the city collect your compost, or is this a garden-type initiative? If you think it is going to be too difficult for your busy office to manage, you can hire a professional composting service to do the work for you. Variables like these will need to be sorted out before any composting can begin.
If you are struggling to find a municipally-assisted or outdoor compost program that works, Earth911 recommends trying ‘vermicomposting’ indoors. Essentially, this is an indoor contraption that allows worms to compost your waste in breathable compost bins, taking up relatively little space. It only takes a few minutes a day of maintenance and is a very sustainable option.
Once you’ve made your macro decisions, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. You must decide what kind of indoor compost bin will suit your office. If you’re a smaller team, you may have more options in terms of size and kind of bin. For example, in an office with less than ten people, a large-sized coffee tin with a plastic lid – think the kind Maxwell’s or other brands sell – may be converted into a light-use indoor bin for those who have their own garden compost. If your municipality has a green bin waste collection program, this might make the answer even easier. Regardless of size, the important part is that it has a tight seal – to prevent the smell of, well, compost, from permeating your office – and be easy for employees to identify and use. You may also have to decide how many bins you need if your office is too large for just one.
After deciding on the right bin for your program, your compost committee is going to want to purchase or design posters that are “eye-catching and easy to read.” ToughNickel says that “posters will make it easier for staff to determine what goes into the bin and what stays out.” And depending on what kind of compost program you choose, this might be different to what they can compost at home. Sustainable America also recommends providing training to your staff ahead of time so that they understand how to best use the compost program. Make sure it is clear to your employees that composting is a group initiative, and while some people may have more to do with the program than others, it is everyone’s responsibility to be tidy, eco-conscious, and at all costs, careful to keep the lid of the compost bin closed.
On 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.