At the end of 2021, Canada will join the ranks of over 35 countries around the world who have already taken action by banning certain single-use plastics, including the U.K., France, and Italy. During a press conference, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the next steps in the Government of Canada’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, including a plastic ban on 6 items. The plan will protect wildlife and Canada’s vast waterway systems, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.
A key part of the plan is a ban on harmful single-use plastic items where there is scientifically-backed evidence that they are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available alternatives. Based on those criteria, the 6 problematic plastics the Government proposes to ban are plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.
“These items are harmful to our environment and their value is lost from the economy when they are tossed in the trash. This proposed ban will help drive innovation across the country as new and easier to recycle items take their place in our economy,” assured The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
While coffee or soft drink cups and their lids are not included in the ban, they have been identified as problematic items. The government has decided to work on improving their recyclability rather than invoking an outright ban.
"...ban what cannot be recycled and recycle the rest," added the Minister of Canadian Heritage and former environmental activist, Steven Guilbeault to clarify their intentions.
Plastic is polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans, harming wildlife, and generating microplastics in the water we use and drink. Every year, Canadians throw away 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, only 9% 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.
“Canadians see the effects of plastic pollution in their communities and waterways and they expect the Government to take action. 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,” added Minister Wilkinson.
This list of items was published today in the discussion paper Proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products to Prevent Waste and Pollution. This plan also proposes improvements to recover and recycle plastic, so it stays in our economy and out of the environment. The Government of Canada is proposing to establish recycled content requirements in products and packaging. This will drive investment in recycling infrastructure and spur innovation in technology and product design to extend the life of plastic materials.
Some environmental agencies are sounding the alarm that this ban on 6 single-use plastics is too little, too late. To read more on this, head over to Greenpeace where you can send an email to your representatives to ask them for a comprehensive ban list for 2021 of the most dangerous and unnecessary single-use plastics.
Problematic single-use plastics include plastic bags (all weights and formats), cups and lids, bottles and caps, straws, stirrers, cutlery, chopsticks, dishware, cotton swabs, take-out containers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable, ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ plastics, polystyrene/styrofoam, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), black and dark coloured plastics, plastic packaging made of mixed materials.
The aforementioned single-use plastics are made from fossil fuels and pollute at every stage of their lifecycle. These are some of the most common, problematic items found during cleanups.
The Government wants to hear from Canadians and stakeholders on this approach to protect the environment from plastic pollution and reduce waste through a more circular economy. Comments will be accepted until December 9, 2020. Regulations will be finalized by the end of 2021.
The Government of Canada is collaborating with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Together, all federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed to the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste that lays out a vision for a circular economy for plastics, as well as a two-phase action plan that is being jointly implemented. Provinces, territories, and municipalities are leaders in the recovery and recycling of plastic waste. The Government of Canada is continuing to work with them to strengthen existing programs and increase Canada’s capacity to reuse and recover more plastics. This will include collaborating with them to develop pan-Canadian targets to ensure that rules are consistent and transparent across the country and make producers and sellers of plastic products responsible for collecting them.
Minister Wilkinson also took the opportunity to announce over $2M through the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative for 14 new Canadian-led plastic reduction initiatives. These projects are led by communities, organizations, and institutions, and will promote the development of new and innovative solutions to prevent, capture and remove plastic pollution from the environment.
Through this initiative, a local non-profit organization, Nature-Action Québec Inc., will receive $205,000 in funding to install waste capture nets at municipal sewer outlets to remove litter before it enters the water, and to raise community awareness about plastic pollution.
By improving how we manage plastic waste and investing in innovative solutions, we can reduce 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year and create approximately 42,000 jobs across the country.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of Canadians is Canada’s highest priority. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has played an important role in keeping Canadians safe, particularly frontline health care workers. The ban on harmful single-use plastics will not impact access to PPE. The Government of Canada is also working with the provinces and territories, through the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers (CCME), and with the private sector to keep PPE out of the environment.