Banned plastics, a good first step
The Government of Canada has just released the next step in its plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
It is proposing to ban six plastic products – plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and foodware made from hard-to-recycle plastics. These are based on harmful single-use plastic items where there is evidence that they are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available alternatives.
Like other supporters, we believe this will inspire innovation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster a circular economy, wherein the lifecycle of the product is extended to the max and requires plastic producers to be responsible for the waste.
The pandemic has been a major distraction for government, and while keeping Canadians safe and supported should be the top priority of all elected officials, we are pleased that some attention has been turned back to the goal of banning plastics. This will be part of our next big fight. When we come out on the other side of the pandemic, the environment will be the next big hurdle in securing the health of humans.
In reality, we have taken a step backward on the reduction of plastics during the pandemic. There have been some setbacks in terms of being able to bring one’s own containers or coffee cups for refilling at certain stores. We have been lucky in Creemore because, to our knowledge, there was not a ban on reusable bags at the grocery store and the Refillery took extra sanitization measure to make it safe for us to reuse our own dispensers.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Canadians throw away 3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. Only nine per cent of it is recycled. The majority of plastics end up in landfills, and about 29,000 tonnes finds its way into our natural environment.
This plan also proposes improvements to recover and recycle plastic, so it stays in our economy and out of the environment. The Government of Canada is proposing to establish recycled content requirements in products and packaging. This will drive investment in recycling infrastructure and spur innovation in technology and product design to extend the life of plastic materials.
This type of legislative change is proven to be the only way to force industry to innovate. Good things will come of it, companies will adapt. It is said this could create as many as 42,000 jobs by 2030.
There are too many examples of companies, left to their own devices, continuing on with the status quo. In order to affect change, there needs to be clear expectations set by the consumer, and support from government (which is often in direct response to that shift in public opinion.)
There are more items the public would like to see banned, but this is a good start.
The government is consulting with Canadians and stakeholders until Dec. 9. Regulations will be finalized by the end of 2021.