The Circle Game

Cool Tips for a Hot Planet

By Ginny Colling

This 100+ year-old Heintzman piano was a quality product that was built to last. Advocate columnist Ginny Colling reminds us that items which can be repaired, reused, and passed on contribute to the circular economy – and to a healthier planet. Creative Commons.

Our 130-year-old Heintzman upright piano came to us from my husband’s brother, who inherited it from their great aunt Marjorie, who had grown up with it.

It’s a solid, mahogany instrument that has stood the test of time.

Quality products have longevity. They can often be repaired, reused and passed on.

Those are some of the features of a circular economy – a movement aimed at helping preserve our finite planet by using waste as a valuable resource. Products are designed so they have long lives, can be repaired, shared and ideally, recycled to create more high-quality products. Currently less than 10 per cent of the world’s economy is considered circular, according to the Circularity Gap report. More than 90 per cent of raw materials used in production become trash.

One product that fits well into the circular concept is the humble beer or pop can. Aluminum can be reused almost endlessly to make more containers without losing quality. Recycling plastic, on the other hand, is much more limited.

According to government figures, Canadians tossed 4.4 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2019, nine per cent of which was recycled. The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, or the natural environment.

Plastic has a huge impact on our environment, not only killing sea life, but also breaking down into micro plastics that nature can’t absorb. Those tiny foreign particles have been found in breast milk, human feces, air, water, and Great Lakes fish. Plastic is also largely made from fossil fuels, worsening global heating.

A recent review of the lifecycle impacts of plastic, published in the journal Annals of Global Health, pointed out plastic’s “significant harms to human health.” It concluded we need an international treaty to reduce plastic production.

This April, Canada will host the fourth international meeting to hammer out such a treaty, with a goal to finalize it by year’s end. Treaty negotiators are looking at ways to make plastic part of a circular economy.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is part of that solution. It makes packaging manufacturers responsible for the recyclability of their products.

That was the type of model in place when I was a tad and I could buy a bottle of Coke for 5 or 10 cents, plus deposit, then return it for a refund. The empties were collected and refilled by local bottlers. But Coke gradually moved to a more centralized distribution system and non-refillable plastic bottles. That’s been a growing problem. Since international audits began in 2018, Coke has been named the world’s top plastic polluter every year.

Bottle deposit programs are a way to ensure a high recycling rate, according to Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Circular Innovation Council. Her group promotes a circular economy that includes plastics. Deposit programs for plastic bottles exist in all provinces except Manitoba and Ontario (which offers deposits for only alcoholic beverage containers). Ontario is looking into expanding the program.

We recently gave that antique Heintzman piano to a great-great niece of Aunt Marjorie. I think she would be pleased.

We can make our own contributions to the circular economy by:

1. Reducing or eliminating unnecessary purchases, including plastics. Think toy or tool lending libraries, or car sharing programs.
2. Buying quality items that last
3. Reusing, repairing or rehoming unwanted stuff
4. Recycling


  1. Mark Doble says:

    Gerhard Heintzman pianos are exceptional instruments. In 1964, My Grandparents passed their Heintzman (Cabinet Grand) to my mother when we were small children. It immediately became the most important piece of furniture in our home – piano lessons, sing alongs, choir rehearsals, – my mother was formally trained through the Royal Conservatory – my dad played numerous instruments by ear, including the piano. All 3 of us children took lessons, competed for years in local music festivals; 2 of us ultimately pursued honours Bachelor of Music degrees. All of us learned other instruments as well, and succeeded in large part because of those piano lessons. My mother took good care of that piano – tuned and repaired on an annual basis – and at one point had the instrument completely refurbished. It has always produced a glorious piano tone. I am pleased that my sister now has the instrument prominently situated in her home, where it continues to receive regular use and good care. I still love that piano!

  2. Wallace says:

    Most people feel good about buying plastic items because we have been brainwashed to believe that most plastic gets recycled. As this article states, the vast majority of plastic does not get recycled. It gets buried in our land fills. Why do we believe plastic gets recycled? Because the big oil companies have been spending billions to push this narrative for decades. They know full well most plastic can’t be recycled, but they want us to feel all warm and fuzzy about buying it. This shows how easy it is to manipulate massive numbers of people. All it takes is a small group of people with a large amount of money at their disposal, to push a narrative.

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