Canada Fixin' To Ban Most Single-Use Plastics, GO CANADA
Nesting ospreys, Florida, 2012 (Bag blew away, chicks unharmed). Photo: Andy Morffew, Creative Commons License 2.0.

Canada's Environmental Ministry announced Monday that it will ban the manufacture and import of most single-use consumer plastics like grocery bags, plastic cutlery, fast food containers, and straws, beginning in December of this year. To give businesses time to use up their existing stocks of the stuff and start using other products, the sale of such items to consumers will be banned starting in December 2023. The government will also ban the export of six types of plastic by 2025.

The new regulations include an exception for folks who need flexible plastic straws for "medical or accessibility reasons," which has definitely been a real concern for people with disabilities in US states that have banned single-use plastic straws.

Once in place, the regulations are expected to eliminate 1.3 million tons of plastic waste that can't be recycled, as well as eliminating 22,000 tons of plastic pollution from making its way into the environment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that the move was the fulfillment of a promise to "ban harmful single-use plastics," and noted that the plastic pollution being prevented would be "equal to a million garbage bags full of litter."

The kinds of plastics that will be prohibited include:

  • checkout bags;
  • cutlery;
  • foodservice ware "made from or containing problematic plastics that are hard to recycle";
  • ring carriers;
  • stir sticks; and
  • straws (with some exceptions).
Also too, in a move to make sure that those "chasing arrow" triangle symbols really mean something, the Canadian government plans to develop new rules later this summer that will prevent the common recycling symbol from appearing on plastics "unless at least 80 percent of recycling facilities in Canada accept them and they have reliable end markets," which should clear up a lot of confusion about those symbols. As joint reporting from NPR and PBS Frontline showed in 2020, most plastics other than milk jugs, some containers like detergent jugs, and soda bottles can't be profitably recycled, but the industry pushed the labels as a way of seeming far greener than it really was.

The Environmental Ministry noted that Canada uses something like 15 billion plastic shopping bags annually, and 16 million plastic straws a day. Such items make up most of the plastic litter found on Canadian shorelines.

But for real disposable plastic waste, the Washington Post reports, get a load of the US of A, which "ranks as the world’s leading contributor of plastic waste, according to a congressionally mandated report released last year."

We're number one in choking wildlife. And let us not forget, the manufacture of plastics contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, what with their being made of petrochemicals and produced using energy that's mostly generated by fossil fuels. The Canadian government's fact sheet notes that "Moving toward a more circular economy for plastics could reduce carbon emissions by 1.8 megatonnes annually, generate billions of dollars in revenue, and create approximately 42,000 jobs by 2030."

Also too, the Post points out the pandemic led to a sharp increase in plastic consumption worldwide, what with all those masks mostly going into the garbage, but too many blowing around on streets and into waterways, too.

The use of disposable masks and personal protective equipment led to a sharp rise in pollution, with some 8 million metric tons of pandemic-related plastic waste created by 193 countries, according to a global study published last year. Much of the waste has ended up in oceans, threatening to disrupt marine life and pollute beaches.

Other countries are farther along in banning single-use plastics; the CBC points out that France "banned most of the items on Canada's list last year," and has also begun phasing in a ban on plastic packaging for fruits and veggies.

Environmentalists have pointed out that Canada's ban is a good first step, but only that. Sarah King, the head of the "oceans and plastics campaign" for Greenpeace Canada, said the six items slated to be banned still only account for five percent of plastic wastes Canada generated in 2019.

"It's a drop in the bucket," she said. "Until the government gets serious about overall reductions of plastic production, we're not going to see the impact we need to see in the environment or in our waste streams."

King said recycling is not going to solve the problem — that the only way to end plastic waste is to stop producing most plastic.

Well sure, but how are the petrochemical companies supposed to keep us happy unless all our croissants come in plastic clamshells that slow them from going stale and bring the cat running whenever you have breakfast? Worse, we might have to start remembering to bring our reusable shopping bags into the store from the car.

[CBC / WaPo / Government of Canada / NPR / PBS Frontline / Photo: Andy Morffew, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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