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A breaking point: Ottawa announces plan to ban single-use plastics

Last Updated Jun 10, 2019 at 4:12 pm PDT

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Summary

The federal government has announced its plan to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Justin Trudeau says the single-use plastics ban will be grounded in 'scientific evidence,' will mirror EU model

Situation of plastic overflowing in landfills and polluting oceans and waterways has reached a breaking point: PM

MONT-SAINT-HILAIRE, Que. (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government plans to implement a complete ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021.

While the details around how a ban will be implemented are still unclear, Trudeau says Canada’s policy will be grounded in scientific evidence, and will draw inspiration from the European Union’s model.

Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled, and without any change in habits, Canadians will be throwing out $11 billion worth of plastic products by 2030.

The products could include single-use items like drinking straws, water bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, stir sticks and fast food containers. However, an official list has not yet been released.

The federal government will be conducting research to determine the best course of action.

Trudeau says the situation of plastic overflowing in landfills and polluting oceans and waterways has reached a breaking point, and action is needed.

Courtney-Alberni MP Gord Johns, the New Democrat who first tabled the legislation in 2017, says he’s worried the government won’t act quickly enough to deliver on this promise.

“Move forward with a really stringent and strong plan,” Johns advises. “We want to learn more about the details and how they’re going to address the other important areas. The government has assured us that they’re going to follow through with delivering on the strategy that was passed unanimously, but we haven’t seen that yet.”

The NDP’s critic for Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard adds today’s announcement doesn’t contain specifics about packaging issues and the industrial use of plastics.

‘Incredibly urgent’

The announcement is receiving some praise from experts. Tony Walker, an assistant professor with the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, says he’s pleased the government is planning to take action, and says the policy is “incredibly urgent.”

“I’m really pleased that the government is taking action, but the government has been talking about it for some time,” he says. “I think they’ve been taking consultation with industry, as well as academics and policy makers.”

While he notes the announcement is timely, Walker says other countries around the world have already made this move.

While Trudeau commends a number of Canadian municipalities which have already banned single-use plastics in their jurisdictions, he adds a country-wide ban is necessary.

Walker says a federal ban will mean a “level playing field” is created for all communities across Canada.

“They can standardize what materials are going to be banned, and those which stay,” Walker explains. “And those which stay, presumably, manufacturers will have the responsibility over, or they can, at least, be recycled in all municipalities across Canada.

Jobs, innovation, and research

According to the federal government, Canadians throw away $8-billion in plastic waste each year. Trudeau says a new plastic waste reduction legislation will boost the economy and create jobs in innovation.

The federal government is expected to work with provinces, territories, and industry stakeholders to “develop consistent standards for extended producer responsibility programs” across the country.

That means companies that make plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging will be responsible for collecting and recycling these items.

Walker believes this extended responsibility on businesses could see municipalities boost their recycling capacity.

“Instead of, in the past, shipping it overseas to third world or developing countries, we can now take care of any materials we do not ban and we keep in the system,” he explains. “We can recycle, here, domestically in Canada.”

He says the sheer volume and complexity of the plastics municipalities have been receiving has been an issue when it comes to recycling domestically. By producing the plastics here, Walker believes Canada has a responsibility to keep the waste and recycle it. “Essentially, closing the loop and having a circular economy — but keeping the resources in Canada.”

-With files from The Canadian Press