With only a few weeks left in 2021, the freshly minted Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, doesn’t have much time left to give Canadians the national ban on harmful single-use plastics his government promised.
Canada hasn’t banned single-use plastics – at least not yet.
In October of 2020, Canada committed to finalizing regulations that would ban harmful single-use plastics by the end of 2021, but that still hasn’t happened. And every day without meaningful action means that upwards of 8,900 tonnes of Canada’s plastic trash is piling up in landfills, burning in incinerators, and polluting our oceans and environment. That’s right: 8,900 tonnes every single day.
But wait. Hasn’t Canada already banned plastic checkout bags, straws, stirrers, cutlery, six-pack rings and Styrofoam takeout containers? Nope. Not yet. But you’re not the only one who is confused.
Local, regional and provincial governments have banned a smattering of single-use plastics.
Depending on where you live in Canada, you might be benefitting from one of more than 75 municipal or provincial bans on single-use plastics. Cities in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have all moved to ban plastic checkout bags. And Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland? They’ve banned plastic checkout bags province-wide. Some local governments have banned other single-use plastic products too. Just last week, BC announced a new bill that would allow the province to ban plastic straws, stirrers and forks. Everyone seems to be on the ban-wagon. And not just in Canada. More than 32 other countries around the world have banned or restricted a variety of single-use plastic products.
But while these local single-use plastic bans are achievements worthy of celebration, this kind of fragmented approach misses the mark for maximum impact. And if you’re a business that operates in multiple jurisdictions, you’ll find yourself having to comply with different rules from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
New government. New Minister. New opportunity.
The good news is, Minister Guilbeault could use the delay he’s inherited to maximize the long-awaited ban’s impact. Instead of following through with the existing plan to ban just six single-use plastics items – items local governments and progressive companies have already banned or phased out – he could impose a stronger, bolder ban that includes additional harmful products and plastics.
According to previous Minister of Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, the proposed ban covers less than 1 per cent of the plastic products Canadians use. As is, the proposed ban is simply not good enough to make a dent in the massive, and growing, global plastic disaster.
That’s why we’re calling on the federal government to be a leader in the global fight to #EndthePlasticDisaster, starting with an expanded ban on single-use plastics that includes:
- More items that are commonly found littered in the environment – like coffee cups and cigarette filters;
- Materials and resins that are particularly problematic in the environment (like oxo-degradable plastics that quickly fragment into microplastics) or that contain toxic chemicals (like PVC and all forms of polystyrene); and
- Items that other jurisdictions have already banned, like lightweight produce bags and plastic egg cartons.
Minister Guilbeault is a veteran environmentalist, having previously held leadership roles with some of Canada’s most prominent environmental advocacy organizations. At Oceana Canada we’ll be working hard to ensure that ending the plastic disaster is a top priority for him and his team.