Canada will ban single-use plastics from 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday, declaring it a “global challenge” to phase out the plastic bags, straws and cutlery clogging the world’s oceans.
Less than 10 per cent of plastics used in Canada are currently recycled
Each year, a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals worldwide are injured or killed by becoming entangled in plastic or ingesting it through the food chain.
Single-use items represent about 70 per cent of the plastic waste littering the marine environment.
Straws, plastic bags, cutlery, plates and stir sticks would be among the items banned, a government statement said. The list will be refined based on further scientific research between now and 2021.
The environmental group Greenpeace called the government’s announcement “the first step” but said ultimately Canada needs to move towards phasing out a wider array of “all non-essential plastics.”
It called for quick action “so this announcement isn’t a single-use election promise.”
The environment is shaping up as an issue in Canadian legislative elections set for October.
Trudeau’s chief rival, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, dismissed the government measure as “another gesture without a plan, without any kind of specifics on how this would be implemented, or any kind of study on the impact on prices for consumers, on jobs, on how this would affect the small businesses.”
If he wins the election, Scheer vows to roll back environmental protections, including a federal carbon tax and a tanker traffic ban along a pristine part of the Pacific coast.
‘The entire life-cycle’
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, many residents endorsed the government’s move.
Trudeau said producers of other plastics — such as bottles or food packaging — will be held responsible for “the entire life-cycle” of their products.
Both plastic manufacturers and the companies using their products, as in packing materials, will have to provide recycling plans.
Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Italy, along with the European Union, subscribed at last year’s G7 summit in Quebec to a new charter against pollution in the world’s oceans.
The United States and Japan did not join the pact. The non-binding Ocean Plastics Charter called on participating countries and the EU to commit to making all plastics reusable, recyclable or recovered by 2030.
A total of 21 governments have by now taken that pledge, Trudeau said. In addition, the EU earlier this year passed legislation to ban single-use plastic products starting in 2021.
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