Canada wants to ban single-use plastics by 2021

Proposed laws around single-use plastics could change the way Canadians eat and drink on the go, but the federal government says they are necessary to counter plastic pollution.

In two announcements on June 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the Liberals plan to ban single-use plastics across the country by 2021.

The ban will cover plastics like single-use straws, grocery bags, cutlery, plates and stir sticks. CBC reports it will also cover plastic cotton swabs, balloon sticks and food packaging like containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene.

Every year, Canadians throw away more than three million tonnes of plastic waste. (Photo from Getty Images)
Every year, Canadians throw away more than three million tonnes of plastic waste. (Photo from Getty Images)

The announcement comes as the government is trying to come to terms with the volume of plastic waste Canadians generate and keep more of it out of lakes, rivers and oceans.

“Canadians know first hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” Trudeau said. “We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution.”

According to a statement issued by the government, less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Globally, the statement says, one garbage truckload of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute. One million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals worldwide are injured or die each year when they mistake plastic for food or become entangled in discarded items.

The government reported that Canadians throw out 15 billion plastic bags annually and use 57 million straws daily.

The ban is one feature among a set of Canadian initiatives to address the country’s plastic pollution. At the 2018 G7 summit, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union adopted the Ocean Plastics Charter, which lays the groundwork to ensure plastics are designed for reuse and recycling.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment is working on a plan to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.

“The health of our oceans is vital to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of Canada’s coastal communities,” Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said in a statement.

“We know plastic pollution harms Canada’s oceans, wildlife, communities—and our economy. It’s a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore.”