My name is Afrah Usman and I am a third year Graphic Communications Management student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. I am pursuing a minor in communication and design, as well as a concentration in packaging.
At school, some of my favourite classes include: design and layout, materials science, and sustainable packaging. When I am not at school, I enjoy hiking, learning photography, and spending time with my friends and family.
I am in project group f which focuses on mental health. However, I have decided to change my subtopic to a ready to go topic about plastic pollution. I am very passionate about environmental sustainability, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic (due to the use of masks, gloves, wipes, etc.), so this sub-topic will be interesting to work on.
The main question I would like to answer in my data visualization is where do Canada's plastics end up (by province). Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental advocacy organization stated that less than 11% of Canada's plastics get recycled. It is unclear how recent this statistic is, however, regardless of how accurate it is, plastic pollution has always been an issue. Environmental Defence then goes on to provide some recommendations on how to reduce plastic pollution, one way is to use reusable items. Personally, I don't believe that the use of plastics is necessarily bad (for our health and the environment). Although it is easy to blame the use of plastics, it is important to look at the entire life cycle of a product, not just the end-of-life. For example: producing a glass bottle usually requires much more energy than producing a single-use plastic bottle would. A glass bottle would have to be used several times in order to match the effect of the plastic bottle. It is often easy to blame plastics because their negative environmental impacts are visible and tangible.
By answering my question "where do Canada's plastics end up", it will provide us with a better picture of which provinces are recycling more. There can be several different factors that affect this, including: province size, price of consumer products, recycling systems in place, resident values, etc. This will then allow us to make recommendations on other ways to reduce plastic pollution such as: government regulations or incentives for recycling. I agree that plastic reduction could be beneficial, however, I strongly believe that plastic elimination is not the solution to reducing plastic pollution. Plastic has the ability to efficiently solve many problems and serve many purposes. Instead, the issue of plastic pollution needs to be targeted from several different angles including: the government, manufactures, and users/consumers.
More information on Environmental Defence can be found here:
Canada's Plastic Pollution Problem - Environmental Defence
Here are some sources I have found that relate to my topic.
Inside Toronto's plastic problem - NOW Magazine
Plastic pollution in Toronto.
Information on Toronto's blue bins. Attempt to reduce recycling contamination.
When researching recycling in Toronto, I came across the thesis of a fellow student about Toronto's current recycling system. She proposed some changes that could be made to reduce contamination.
Great resource. Includes Canadian statistics.
Drowning in Plastic
An estimated nine percent of plastic waste recycled, four percent incinerated with energy recovery, 86 percent landfilled, and one percent leaked into the environment in 2016 (Figure 1). Thus, plastics material not recovered (i.e., 2,824kt of resins sent to landfill or leaked into the environment) represented a lost opportunity of CA$7.8 billion for Canada in 2016, based on the value of virgin resin material.
UPDATE (May 10):
After speaking with instructors during the preliminary presentation round, we have come to conclusion that focusing on this topic from a more personal level will not only make it easier to collect data, but will also allow the visualization to be more understandable and meaningful.