The Trudeau government confirmed on Monday that several very common single-use plastic items will disappear from Canadian lives forever during 2023.
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Over the next few months, customers and retailers will have to learn to live without grocery bags, utensils, food containers made from hard-to-recycle plastic, drink packaging rings, stirrers and straws, the government said. However, exceptions are made for straws, in a medical context or in the case of accessibility for certain people.
Photo archive QMI Agency, Joël Lemay
“We cannot just clean up polluted places if we really want to end plastic pollution. We need to address the source of the problem: ban the manufacture, import and sale of harmful single-use plastic,” Environment and Climate Change Secretary Steven Guilbeault said while walking on Beauport Beach in Quebec.
The latter spoke of a “historic” step forward that he hopes can set a good example for other countries.
“We are one of the fastest moving countries in the world on this issue. There are a few countries that have made this kind of commitment, but there aren’t many,” argued Mr Guilbeault.
The final regulations, finally unveiled on Monday, stipulate that manufacture or import of the targets will be banned from December 2022, while their sale will be definitively banned from 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged in 2019 to ban the use of certain plastic products by 2021. This project has since been postponed.
“This groundbreaking ban on harmful single-use plastics will eliminate an estimated 1.3 million tons of hard-to-recycle plastic waste and over 22,000 tons of plastic pollution,” Ottawa estimates.
Affected companies can benefit from federal funds designed specifically to help transition to a world free of these plastic products.
Some have already started making the switch, such as the Labatt brewery, which is in the process of phasing out the plastic rings that connect beer can wrappers, Mr Guilbeault reported.
In the eyes of Greenpeace Canada, this announcement “represents a significant step forward, but we are not even on the starting line.”
According to the organization, banned plastics accounted for nearly 5% of plastic waste generated in Canada in 2019.
“The government needs to switch gears by expanding the list of banned products and cutting all plastics production,” said Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada Oceans and Plastics Campaigner, noting that relying on recycling to get all produced is illusory recover plastic.
The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) also expressed “disappointment” with the announcement, for reasons opposed to the environmental movement.
“Instead of bans, we need to invest in recycling infrastructure and innovation, including compostable materials management infrastructure, to harness the $8 billion worth of plastics currently going to landfill and bring them back into the economy said Elena Mangaris, Vice President of CIAC’s Plastics Division.