UBC Undergraduate Research

The feasibility of implementing a disposal ban on polystyrene in Metro Vancouver O’Neill, Maegan


Research Question: Can a disposal ban on Polystyrene (PS #6) be justified based on economic, logistical, environmental and social criteria in Metro Vancouver? A proposed disposal ban on PS would require a convenient alternative stream for the material to follow that does not result in the disposal of the material in a landfill. The chosen alternative this research paper has focused on is recycling through source diversion. Through research, the proposed disposal ban was justified based upon economic and environmental criteria. The economic return and compression method (an efficient and environmentally sound mechanical recovery process) of recycling the material in the Metro Vancouver region indicated that a disposal ban could be justified. However, the logistical and social criteria pose some challenges. The logistics of a disposal ban becomes joined with the social realm when the transportation of the material is considered. PS’s light weight and bulkiness make curbside pickup financially challenging for an organization to administer. One preferred solution to curbside pick-up are recycling depots. However, relying entirely upon recycling depots is less convenient for individuals – most notably elderly and non-mobile residents - and costly for the commercial sector. Furthermore, a redirection of all PS to existing recycling depots poses the risk of straining these depots. Considering the research findings, a list of recommendations has been made below. These recommendations were based on literature reviews, expert interviews and survey results. ● If a disposal ban were implemented on PS, it would need to be a gradual process. ● Further public education on the options for recycling PS need to take place. ● Depot drop off is more feasible than curbside pickup but have several logistical and social challenges. That being said, the use of depots and their locations need to be given further consideration.

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