Canada banning single-use plastics

MONT-SAINT-HILAIRE, QC – The federal government today announced it will ban single-use plastics such as bags, cutlery and straws by 2021. In addition, the government will initiate measures to create a producer responsibility system across the country.

In a statement, the government said the measures “will be grounded in scientific evidence and will align, where appropriate, with similar actions being taken in the European Union and other countries”. They are also intended to 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.

Industry reaction was swift. Tim Hortons COO Mike Hancock welcomed the announcement, saying, “We all have a responsibility to contribute to a clean environment in Canada and Tim Hortons has already started to implement substantive initiatives that Canadians can be proud of. We will work closely with our government and industry partners to implement this elimination of single-use plastics – and will also discuss with them our other environmental initiatives including our 10-year campaign to change consumer perceptions in favour of using reusable cups for hot and cold beverages at restaurants.”

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said the ban would help businesses by clarifying what is currently a murky and confusing mess of conflicting regulations. “Harmonized action will provide a much better environmental outcome than having hundreds of municipalities taking widely differing approaches on this issue,” said Philippe Cantin, the RCC’s senior director, sustainability innovation and circular economy. “Today’s announcement by the federal government that harmful single-use plastics will be banned under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is a major step in the right direction.”

The plastics and petrochemical industries were less enthusiastic, suggesting that the government was on the right track in its intention to make decisions based on scientific research outcomes. The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), said in a statement that they “fully endorse the objective of stopping waste, including plastic waste, from leaking into the environment.”

The two organizations said they support the government as it “works on the science to better understand the implications of plastic waste in the environment. Specifically, we welcome the plans for producer-led extended producer responsibility initiatives which will lead to more harmonized collection and help build markets for recycled plastics.”

“We would only caution government not to pre-determine the outcome and consider impacts throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and their alternatives,” CPIA and CIAC continued. “Any rush to judgment could have serious implications on industry’s ability to create a circular economy for plastics that supports a national zero plastic waste strategy.”

Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Without a change in course, Canadians will throw away an estimated $11 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030. By improving plastic waste management and investing in innovative solutions, potentially 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution can be avoided, and 42,000 jobs can be created, the government said in a statement.

“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” said prime minister Justin Trudeau.

“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.”

About one-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging. In fact, in Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily.

Every year, 640,000 tons of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear enters our oceans. It can persist in the environment for up to 600 years.

Globally, one garbage truckload of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute, and that amount is increasing steadily.