The first phase of Canada’s bans on some single-use plastics starts today. Here’s what you need to know:
- Companies can no longer make or import for sale five single-use plastic items in Canada:
- Checkout bags
- Straight straws
- Stir sticks
- Foam, black plastic and “oxo-degradable” takeout food containers
2. You may still see these products around as retail stores, restaurants, etc., use up their stock. In a year, businesses in Canada will no longer be able to sell or distribute them and they will all but disappear from our lives – and the environment! In June of 2023, six-pack rings – the harmful and unnecessary plastic that holds cans together and chokes wildlife – will also be phased out. By 2025, local manufacturers will no longer be allowed to make any of these harmful products for export to other countries.
3. Reusable alternatives are better for the environment than single-use replacements. Stores, restaurants and other businesses must start looking for ways to ensure their packaging can be reused instead of turning to single-use alternatives. This is especially true if they replace single-use plastic items with more durable single-use products. We don’t want to see more durable garbage but rather a shift away from creating waste altogether.
Canadians currently throw away about 4.4 million tonnes of plastic every year. We need to bring that number down without creating more waste from materials such as paper, metal and glass. Businesses, including retailers, restaurants and beverage companies, must develop convenient and accessible ways to collect containers and packaging from customers – including delivery bins and takeout containers – that can be cleaned and reused. And because voluntary measures won’t spark the shift we need, the government needs to set reuse targets for companies whose single-use packaging is polluting the environment.
4. The bans are a good start but we need to get rid of even more harmful single-use plastics. The existing bans are expected to reduce Canada’s plastic waste by 1.3 million tonnes over ten years. But if we stop here, we’ll still be left with many other harmful products and packages that end up in nature, landfills and incinerators. The government needs to immediately start identifying additional problematic plastic items to ban in order to prevent more damage to the environment, wildlife and human health. Takeout coffee cups and lids, condiment packets and plastic pouches that can’t be recycled or reused are a great place to start.
5. You helped make these bans happen! Let’s keep up the pressure so the government steps up their commitment to eliminating plastic waste. It is clear that Canadians want the bans on these dangerous products – thousands of people like you voiced their support for the bans over the last few years.
At the same time, the plastics industry is still fighting the government in court over the bans and we can’t let them win. It’s important to tell the government these first bans on single-use plastics are a good start but there’s more to do. If you haven’t done so already, please send a letter to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and your member of parliament to call for expanding the bans and support for reuse.