In a major move to reduce plastic waste production, the Canadian government has announced that it will be banning all single-use plastics nationwide as early as 2021.

The announcement was made on Monday, June 10th as part of a broader initiative to protect the environment and fight climate change.

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The ban is to be implemented under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and will include all single-use plastic products and packaging including shopping bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks.

Specifications regarding the products and measures included in the prohibition will be determined after a State of the Science assessment on plastic pollution in the environment which is currently underway.

Zero Plastic Waste strategy

As part of the larger initiative to ensure plastic waste reduction in the country, the Trudeau administration plans to implement several measures alongside the ban.

These include:

  • Ensuring that companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging are responsible for managing the collection and recycling of their plastic waste,
  • Working with industry to prevent and retrieve abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear, known as ghost fishing gear – a major contributor to marine plastic debris,
  • Investing in new technologies through the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge,
  • Mobilizing international support to address plastic pollution by contributing $100 million to help developing countries prevent plastic waste from entering the oceans, address plastic waste on shorelines, and better manage existing plastic resources,
  • Reducing plastic waste from federal operations,
  • Reducing plastic microbeads in freshwater marine ecosystems by implementing a complete ban on toiletries that contain plastic microbeads by July 1st 2019,
  • Supporting community-led action and citizen-science activities, and
  • Launching Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda, accelerating research along the lifecycle of plastics and on the impacts of plastics pollution on humans, wildlife, and the environment.

According to statistics released by the federal government, Canadians produce over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, around one-third of which is made up of single-use or short-lived products and packaging.

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This translates to 15 billion plastic bags per year, and close to 57 million straws are used daily.

The Zero Plastic Waste strategy announcement also comes on the heels of a recent study which concludes that humans consume between 70,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles per year, with rates rising up to 100,000 for those who drank only bottled water.

At a municipal level

There is currently no information on how the federal single plastics ban and the other aforementioned measures will be implemented, or whether it will look different for each province and territory.

At the local level, the City of Victoria has already been carrying out a single use plastic bag ban since it was approved by the BC Supreme Court in June 2018.

Following in Victoria’s footsteps, the District of Saanich also set in motion a plan to implement the same type of ban.

On Tuesday, June 11th, the single use plastic bag ban for Saanich was officially approved just one day after Canada announced its Zero Plastic Waste strategy.

“Saanich has declared a climate emergency and this is a small but important step toward becoming more sustainable, reducing waste and respecting our natural environment,” said Councillor and Acting Mayor, Colin Plant.

“Saanich has been a beautiful community for generations and we want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect our environment for the future and reduce the negative impact that discarded plastic bags have on municipal facilities and services. There are so many creative options for people to adopt that don’t require a single-use bag. This is one of the ways we’re walking the talk.”

This bylaw will come into effect on January 1st, 2020. Like in Victoria, Saanich businesses will be allowed to provide paper bags at a cost of 15 cents per bag.

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