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Canada to ban single-use plastics in 2021

June 10, 2019

Canada has announced that it will ban single-use plastic products such as straws and bags starting in 2021. The government said that plastic manufacturers would be held responsible for processing the waste.

Greenpeace-Protest vor dem G7-Gipfel in Kanada
Image: David Kawai/Greenpeace

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would ban single-use plastics starting in 2021. The ban would include plastic products and packaging such as shopping bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks. A government-sponsored scientific assessment on plastic pollution would determine whether to add further products to the list.

Plastic pollution primarily affects marine ecosystems, and the prime minister said that Canada should lead the fight against plastic pollution as the country has the world's longest coastline.

Read more: Plastic pollution: Do beach cleanups really make a difference?

"It's tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches across the world, their stomachs jam packed with plastic bags?" said Trudeau. "Against all odds, you will find plastic at the very deepest point of the Pacific Ocean."

According to a statement from Trudeau's office, the ban would be implemented under Canada's Environmental Protection Act. 

Canada estimates that up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and around 57 million plastic straws are used daily.

Canada's big plan for plastic

Last year at the G7 meeting, Canada launched the Ocean Plastics Charter to reduce plastic use worldwide. According to a press release, Canada's government is contributing 100 million Canadian dollars (roughly $75 million, €67 million) to help developing countries prevent plastic waste from entering the oceans.

Read more: G7 minus two: Leaders agree to ocean plastics charter

The European Parliament is planning a similar ban, also hoping to implement it in 2021.

Canada estimates that 3 million tons of plastic waste are thrown away in the country every year. Less than 10% of plastics are currently recycled in Canada.

Several cities in Canada already have bans on plastic bags in place. On Monday, the Canadian government announced it would support "community-led" action on reducing plastic waste. 

Canada said it was waiting until 2021 to allow for a "science-based" decision on exactly which plastics "are harmful to the environment and human health." 

The plan also gives time for businesses, like fast food restaurants, to adjust and find alternatives to plastic. 

Read more: World agrees on first global commitment to curb single-use plastics

Helping Canada's companies drop plastic

Trudeau said that plastic producers would be held responsible for "the entire life-cycle" of their products, and that plastic manufacturers and the companies using their products would have to provide recycling plans. 

According to a press statement, Canada could set a required amount of recycled content for manufacturers. Also, the federal government said it would work with provincial authorities so that companies join municipalities in taking responsibility for the recycling process.

Read more: World Oceans Day: Beach cleanups held worldwide

The Canadian government expects its anti-plastic crusade to add 42,000 jobs in the recycling and recovery businesses. Environmental issues are expected to be at the top of the agenda in Canada's legislative elections planned for October.

wmr/msh (AFP, AP,Reuters)

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