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COVID-19 pandemic pushes rise in single-use plastics, study finds

Last Updated Aug 27, 2020 at 8:45 am PDT

FILE - Plastics recycling bin. (Hana Mae Nassar, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

The use of plastic is on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a study has found

Study says support for tighter regulations, plastics bans still strong, but not as much as before the health crisis

About one-third of study respondents say they are buying more plastic-packaged goods amid the coronavirus crisis

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Many Canadians are still worried about the environmental impacts, but COVID-19 seems to have put our concerns about single-use plastics on the backburner.

Plastics have been piling up during this pandemic, and a new study has found support for tighter regulations and plastic bans in the food industry have been eroded by the coronavirus health crisis.

“Based on the results of our study over the summer, we realized that Canadians actually do value public health and they see plastics, perhaps, as an issue, but not as much as they used to,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says.

About one-third of study respondents say they are buying more plastic-packaged goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women are more likely than men to buy more plastics, the study has found. However, when it comes to attitudes on policy, women continue to support bans and regulations. There are slightly steeper declines in support for such regulations among men.

It also says young people, in particular, are buying more, since they tend to order more pre-prepared foods from restaurants and meal kit providers.

While there is support for increased regulations to deal with the plastics issue, Charlebois says many would rather we hold off for the time being.

“When we’re reading results, what we’re getting from Canadians is that they are recognizing plastics as an important issue, but they would prefer industry and governments to wait until at least we go through a potential second wave of COVID in the fall or in the winter. And then, when things calm down, we can actually go back to work and deal with the plastic issue again.”

He notes a study conducted last year found Canadians were overwhelmingly in favour of the government and industries taking action against single-use plastics in the food sector.