The federal government makes a move towards its goal of zero waste by 2030
On October 7, 2020, the Government of Canada announced a list of single-use plastics that will be banned by the end of 2021.
The list includes plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery as well as takeout containers that are hard to recycle.
“These items are harmful to our environment and their value is lost from the economy when they are tossed in the trash,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. “This proposed ban will help drive innovation across the country as new and easier to recycle items take their place in our economy.”
Wilkinson also announced a commitment of more than $2-million for 14 new Canadian-led plastic-reduction programs through the Government’s Zero Plastic Waste Initiative, which encourages “communities, organizations and institutions to develop new and innovative solutions to prevent, capture and remove plastic pollution from the environment.”
“Canadians see the effects of plastic pollution in their communities and waterways and they expect the Government to take action,” said Wilkinson. “Our Government is introducing a comprehensive plan to get to zero plastic waste. Our plan embraces the transition towards a circular economy, recycled-content standards and targets for recycling rates.”
Due to the pandemic, the ban does not currently include PPE like face shields and other plastics used in the medical field; however, the government will be discussing the impact of this pollution with the provinces and territories to make sure it is disposed of properly.
The reaction from environmental advocates about the announcement has been generally positive, but organizations like Greenpeace would like to see more plastic items included in the ban.
“We welcome the move by the federal government to put the process in motion to ban single-use plastics," said Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada’s Head of Oceans & Plastics Campaign. "Ultimately Canada needs to move towards phasing out all non-essential plastics if we are going to truly reduce the awful plastic legacy we are leaving for future generations of all life on this planet. Every day until a ban comes into effect, millions of throwaway plastics are produced, consumed and disposed of, with massive costs to Canadians and wildlife."
Greenpeace explains that those unnecessary plastics "include but are not limited to: PVC, bags, black plastic, oxo-degradable plastic, bottles, straws, utensils, expanded polystyrene, cups and lids, multilayered wrappers and takeout containers."
There is also new information suggesting that the public has been misled for decades about the viability of recycling plastic. According to an in-depth investigation by NPR and PBS Frontline, "All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can't be reused more than once or twice. On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It's made from oil and gas, and it's almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh... We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn't work—that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled—all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic."
Canada's list of banned items was included in the discussion paper Proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products to Prevent Waste and Pollution and the government is accepting feedback about the plan from all Canadians and stakeholders until December 9, 2020.
FAST FACTS (SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA)
- Every year, Canadians throw away 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, only 9 percent of which is recycled, meaning the vast majority of plastics end up in landfills and about 29,000 tonnes finds its way into our natural environment.
- In Canada, single-use plastics make up most of plastic litter that is found in freshwater environments.
- In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily.
- Over 35 countries around the world have already taken action by banning certain single use plastics, including U.K., France, Italy.
- On October 10, the Government of Canada will also publish a proposed Order to add “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). This is a necessary regulatory step to managing plastic products.