History is a passion for me. I love reading about books or watching documentaries on battles, changes in technology and how we as people step up when things get tough. As an example, in World War Two, the Allies radically improved their tank & airplane technology; while simultaneously improving their industrial capacity to defeat Nazi Germany. So it should not be a surprise that some of the technology which rules our world today, arose from this time. Just think about the rise of computers, nuclear power, jets and rockets.
If one looks back further, from the development of the car to the plane, we see how remarkable technological change could be. Think of the Car. In 1893, two years after being the Chief Engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit, Henry Ford developed his first car. He called it the Quadricycle. His tinkering, his hobby, would lead to the Detroit Automobile Company in 1898; and then the Ford Motor Company in 1903.
Ford Motor Company had a lot of interest. The Dodge Brothers became early investors and they would later set up their own automobile company. Or put differently, the Dodge Brothers are responsible for the Dodge name plate which is now on some Fiat Chrysler cars. So it was not a surprise that by 1910, there were 500,000 cars in the US. By the 1920s, cars began to replace horse drawn carriages; so much so, that by the end of World War Two, in North America, the horse drawn carriage was not seen as a serious mode of transportation.
Or think of the airplane. The Wright Brothers accomplished the first powered flight in 1903. Before World War I, Air Mail was a thing in the United Kingdom and the United States. By 1929, airplanes were normal. Airplanes were so normal that the Universal Postal Union came into being to help with the standardization of Air Mail; while Militaries around the world were buying planes because militaries foresaw their use in future entanglements. By the end of World War Two, people would be moved in a different way: instead of using trains and ships; they would increasingly be using airplanes.
So, if you don’t see a theme, let me be plain: technology, since the 1900s, has changed things at a breakneck pace. When I was a child, long distance telephone rates were steep and we could only dream of computers at home. Today, not forty years later, the phone in my hand could compete with a 1980’s era supercomputer.
This trend is most evident today in Nabob Coffee Company’s most recent product: the Zero Waste Keurig Compatible Pod Pack. The box contains 20 Keurig Compatible Coffee Pods. All of the pods are compostable. The two bags, which each hold ten pods, are compostable; while the box is made of recycled paper which is itself recyclable. Compared to the first K-Cup pods, one can see the remarkable difference. For the first K-Cup pods were never really recyclable. Or put differently, few cities, municipalities, regions or countries invested the money to be able to separate the plastic, clean the plastic and then be able to process the small pieces of plastic. Consequently, while most K-cup pods end up in dumps; Nabob’s new compostable K-Cup pods can end up in your green bin, in your garden or really anywhere that it can break down.
Now, let me be clear, this is part of a market driven trend. Nabob – once a Vancouver based company, created in 1897 – is now owned by Kraft Heinz Foods. Nabob is fulfilling Kraft Heinz’s wish: of driving towards a product line which is entirely compostable, recyclable and reusable.
However, if one thinks that Kraft Heinz is alone on this trend, one would be mistaken. The Häagen-Dazs Ice Brand is now owned by a joint venture – controlled by PAI Partners and Nestlé – called Froneria. Häagen-Dazs is already using a “container it designed for the system in stores in New York City, where customers bring it back an average of 62% of the time.” While Loop – a company which grew out of efforts of the recycling giant Terracycle – is now working with Walgreens and Kroger in the U.S., Carrefour in France, Tesco in the U.K., and Loblaw’s in Canada to create a product supply chain for consumers that uses packaging which can be reused at least 100 times. This means companies like Unilever or Procter & Gamble – the company with over $80 billion USD in Revenue and makers of Tide, Bounty, Gain; to name a few of their products – will be able to keep their promises of reducing plastic use.
While this is great for the environment, for Climate Change and the planet, it really puts a kink in Premier Kenney’s (and the UCP’s) plan to become the recycling hub for the world because that was a major part of their transition master plan. Think of it this way, Irina Slav (a reporter for Oil Price.com) noted that:
“Last year, 359 million tons of plastics entered markets around the world. The average portion of the total plastics output that packaging takes up is about 35 to 45 percent.”
If multinational conglomerates (like Nestlé, Kraft Heinz Foods, Unilever and Procter & Gamble) work with major retailers (like Walgreens and Kroger in the U.S., Carrefour in France, Tesco in the U.K., and Loblaw’s), one can see a dramatic decrease in plastic use in Western World. Alongside that comes a dramatic reduction in the feeder stock used to make plastics: Natural Gas and Oil.
Now, if this was the only reduction in Oil Use, Alberta might be okay. However, this is only the beginning. Just look at the transportation space. In 2019, Cape Air ordered the first electric airplane; while United Airlines – a major US air carrier – has ordered 200 electric planes. At the same time, Ford, Volkswagen, GM and Volvo are spending billions of dollars each to move from being the world’s largest internal combustion car manufacturers to being the world’s largest electric car manufacturers. In Norway, this has meant that Tesla is losing share to Volkswagen and Volvo. If the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) is right and more than 60% of oil is used for transportation, one can see a quick and radical decrease in the use of oil coming over the next few decades.
All of this comes before we consider the promises of Governments. Between 2030 and 2050, most members of the European Union, Mexico City, some US States (including California), British Columbia, Quebec, India, Israel, Taiwan and China will be phasing out internal combustion cars. Furthermore by 2050, the European Union, the UK, Japan and South Korea have promised to be carbon neutral and they are using legislative and regulatory tools to make it happen. If you wonder why Royal Dutch Shell or Equinor (formerly StatOil), those were the reasons. Accordingly, the Nabob Coffee Company creating new Zero Waste products is inline with what companies and governments are doing: moving toward a decarbonized world.
The problem for the Leg, for the Government of Alberta, for Jason Kenney and the UCP is simple: they are choosing to be the ostrich. Rather than looking at the evidence at hand, many parts of Alberta are choosing to believe that nothing will change. Rather than looking at IEA projections or projections of Royal Dutch Shell or BP, the Kenney Government is saying all is well. It is as if they want to fiddle as “Rome burns”. For doing the opposite and leading might lead to an admission. An admission that Rachel Notley didn’t move more aggressively towards diversifying Alberta. An admission that Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmack, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice should have made a real effort to either deal with Climate Change. For now, we are in a bit of a pickle. Within the next decade, the world will be moving quickly to a world with ever reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and ever little need for the resources that we have underneath our feet. The Nabob Zero Waste product shows us that change is going to happen and that Alberta needs a plan.