Canada intends to ban “harmful” single-use plastics as early as 2021 and hold companies responsible for plastic waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.
“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste. We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come,” said Trudeau.
Less than 10 percent of the plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Without a change in course, Canadians will throw away an estimated C$11 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030.
Calling plastic pollution “a global challenge that requires immediate action,” Trudeau pointed out that plastic waste ends up in landfills and incinerators, litters parks and beaches, pollutes rivers, lakes, and oceans, and entangles and kills turtles, fish and marine mammals.
The Canadian government has not released a list of the plastic products that will be banned as “harmful,” but in his announcement, Trudeau mentioned plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks.
About one-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging. Up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily in Canada.
Globally, one garbage truckload of plastic waste enters the oceans every minute, and that amount is increasing. Every year, 640,000 tons of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear enters the oceans, where it can persist in the environment for up to 600 years.
Every year, one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals worldwide are injured or die when they mistake plastic for foodor become entangled.
“We’ve reached a defining moment, and this is a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore. With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility, and an opportunity, to lead in reducing plastic pollution, Trudeau said.
Trudeau said that the new measures will be grounded in scientific evidence and will align, where appropriate, with similar actions being taken in the European Union and other countries.
On May 21, the Council of the European Union adopted the ambitious measures proposed by the European Commission to tackle marine litter coming from the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
On May 10, 180 United Nations member countries reached a deal to restrict shipments of hard-to-recycle plastic waste to developing countries.
Exporting countries, including the United States, now will have to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. Currently, the U.S. and other countries can send lower-quality plastic waste to private entities in developing countries without getting approval from their governments.
Prime Minister Trudeau said that by improving how Canada manages plastic waste and investing in innovative solutions, the country can reduce 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution, generate billions of dollars in revenue, and create approximately 42,000 jobs.
The new measures will also support the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s development of an action plan to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.
In November 2018, Canada’s environment ministers agreed to work collectively toward a common goal of zero plastic waste. They approved in principle a Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste, which outlines a vision to keep all plastics in the economy and out of the environment.
The strategy outlines areas where changes are needed across the plastic lifecycle, from design to collection, clean-up and value recovery, and underscores the economic and business opportunities resulting from long-lasting and durable plastics.
“We’ve all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales, and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans. Canadians expect us to act. That’s why our government intends to ban harmful single-use plastic products where science warrants it, and why we’re working with partners across Canada and around the world to reduce plastic pollution,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
“Taking these steps will help create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and make our economy even stronger—while protecting fish, whales, and other wildlife, and preserving the places we love,” she said.
The Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste is expected to be a driver for innovation and to create opportunities that will increase competitiveness in new business models, product design solutions, and waste prevention and recovery technologies.
Over the last 25 years, nearly 800,000 volunteers have removed over 1.3 million kilograms of trash from across Canada’s shorelines through Ocean Wise and World Wildlife Fund’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program, supported by the Government of Canada. The most common litter items found on shorelines are single-use or short-lived products, many made of plastics.
“The health of our oceans is vital to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of Canada’s coastal communities,” said Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson. “We know plastic pollution harms Canada’s oceans, wildlife, communities and our economy. It’s a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore. We are working with industry to prevent and remove ghost fishing gear, to protect marine animals and the marine environment now and for future generations.”
Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.