More than two dozen environmental groups are urging federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to get moving on implementing the promised ban on single-use plastics. Every day of delay means adding at least 7,900 tonnes of plastic to landfills and the natural environment.

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The plastics industry has come out swinging against plastics bans, making single-use plastics out to be a saviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian plastics industry association has asked the government to delay regulation so that it can have more time for lobbying (or what it calls “consultation”).

The pandemic is creating a surge in plastic waste 

Plastic bags full of groceries in the trunk of a car

 Plastics is a $4 trillion global industry that is cashing in on one pandemic to fuel another. The packaging market, alone, is expected to be worth more than $1 trillion this year, with plastics leading the way. 

Single-use plastic has received a boost from the pandemic. The International Solid Waste Association has estimated that the use of single-use plastics is up by 250 to 300 per cent around the world. 

A survey showed that Singapore’s 5.7 million people — similar to the population of the Greater Toronto Area — threw away more than 1,300 additional tons of plastic during a two-month lockdown last spring because of takeout and food delivery. And between lockdowns, the world is throwing away an estimated 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves every month. Disposable PPE is made from plastic, difficult to recycle and, like every other single-use plastic, found littered in the environment.

That’s on top of the nearly 10 million tonnes of plastic trash that was already ending up in the world’s oceans every year.

Plastic pollution is out of control. Action is needed now to stop it 

The time to act on plastics is now. We need efforts from governments around the world to stop the use of harmful and unnecessary plastics immediately. Governments also need to develop and support new ways of doing things based on the principles of reduction, reuse, and repair. Our health depends on it.

Other countries, including China, Germany and the Maldives, are moving ahead with plastics bans this year. The Canadian government has identified six single-use items that are both unnecessary and harmful: six-pack rings, straws, cutlery, stir sticks and some takeout containers, and checkout bags. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to ban these items in 2021. To hold to that promise, the government needs to move now.

The first step is for the government to list “plastic manufactured items” as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. That will enable regulations on plastics in the interests of our health and our environment, starting with the ban on single-use items. The government is also proposing to introduce a requirement that new plastic products contain recycled content. That would provide a much-needed boost to the demand for recycled plastics.

 There is huge public support for action on plastics in Canada.

Industry will never save us from plastic pollution. It has a vested interest in producing ever-more plastics and making the rest of us pay for cleaning up the mess. Government regulation is needed, more than ever. Send a letter to the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister urging them to act today.