Ottawa plans to ban five single-use plastic items

The Trudeau government will ban the sale of certain single-use plastic items deemed “harmful” for a period of two years. Ottawa hopes to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the environment each year, as currently barely 9% of what’s used in Canada is recycled. An announcement welcomed by environmentalists, but who believe that this is not enough to reduce the place of this material in our lives and the use of single-use products after use.

The sale of grocery bags, utensils, stirrers and “food containers made in whole or in part from problem plastic that is difficult to recycle” will be banned in the country by the end of 2023.

Regarding “beverage container rings” and “flexible straws wrapped with beverage containers” (e.g. juice boxes), sales will not be banned until June 2024. Ottawa chose it because of “the complexity of restructuring the production chains of these products”.

As already indicated in the draft regulations published in December 2021, the sale of flexible plastic straws will not be banned in Canada. Stores can sell them in packs of at least 20 straws. “For example, it will be available for use at home, in social institutions and in medical facilities such as hospitals and long-term care facilities,” said the federal government’s statement published on Monday.

The export ban on these six categories of single-use plastic items, which are considered “harmful”, will come into effect by the end of 2025.

plastic pollution

According to Federal Environment Secretary Steven Guilbeault on Monday, the new rules will help “reduce plastic pollution” but also encourage companies to “provide the sustainable solutions that Canadians are demanding, whether that be paper straws or reusable bags.”

“We need to eliminate plastic pollution and move to a circular economy,” he added. The federal government estimates that the new rules will eliminate 22,000 tons of “plastic pollution” over a 10-year period, “equivalent to more than a million bags of trash”.

For comparison: Currently, around 29,000 tons of plastic end up in the environment in Canada every year. Canadians use more than 4.6 million tons of plastic every year. Currently, however, just under 9% of this plastic is recycled. However, the Trudeau government has pledged to reach a 90% recycling target by 2030.

Insufficient

Amélie Côté, analyst at Équiterre, believes Monday’s announcement is good news that remains insufficient. “The core of the problem remains the disposable in a broader sense, which goes far beyond the material used. With the announced ban, it is expected to see a shift from single-use plastic items to other similar items made from other materials. A single-use product, whether plastic, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, at the end of its life cycle requires resources to manufacture, transport and manage it. You have to tackle that. »

Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada’s Oceans and Plastics Campaign Manager, also thinks Canada should ban more products and focus on reducing production. “The OECD projects that Canada will nearly double its plastic consumption from 2019 to 2060, that global consumption will nearly triple, and it is estimated that this ban will cover at most 5% of all plastic waste Canada generated in 2019. »

When announcing the “Zero Plastic Waste” promise by 2030 in October 2020, the federal government pointed out that plastic must remain “in the economy”. However, a federal “scientific review” published in 2020 highlighted that there are several uncertainties about the health effects of our chronic exposure to plastic particles.

“People can be exposed to microplastics by ingesting food, bottled and tap water, and by breathing indoor or outdoor air. However, information on the impact of these microplastics on human health is limited and more research is needed to better determine target tissues, threshold doses and modes of action,” the document said.

The analysis also showed that pollution from plastic particles is very present in our daily lives. “Sources of indoor air pollution from microplastics include fiber loss from clothing, furniture, carpets and household goods, while microplastics that pollute outdoor air come from a variety of sources, including vehicle tire abrasion. »

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