Canada is set to join a growing list of countries that have banned single-use plastics in their territories. In the rules announced on Monday, 20th June 2022, Canada will ban the manufacturing and importation of several single-use plastics such as utensils, carry bags, and others that are just too difficult to recycle.
In a statement on Monday, Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s environment minister, said that:
“Our government is all in when it comes to reducing plastic pollution …That’s why we’re announcing today that our government is delivering on its commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics.”
We promised Canadians we would deliver a ban on single-use plastics.
That’s exactly what we’re announcing today.
This is a historic step towards beating plastic pollution and keeping our communities, lands and oceans clean.https://t.co/3wZvoLB7aS pic.twitter.com/uRhYlywajn
— Steven Guilbeault (@s_guilbeault) June 20, 2022
He added that it’s a historic step towards undoing plastic pollution and keeping communities, lands, and oceans clean.
The ban will start taking effect in December 2023, giving businesses and citizens time to adjust and deplete their existing plastic supplies.
Additionally, the government aims to ban plastic exports by 2025.
The move to ban plastics comes a year after the government listed plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This opened up a path to ban some plastics. But, some plastic producers have sued the government over listing plastics as toxic in a case scheduled to be heard later in the year.
The problem with single-use plastics
Single-use plastics are now ubiquitous in our society. They are used for everything from packaging food to carrying groceries. While they are undoubtedly convenient, single-use plastics pose a serious threat to the environment.
For one thing, they are not biodegradable, meaning they will remain in landfills for centuries. Additionally, single-use plastics often become litter, clogging drains and polluting waterways.
Moreover, the production of single-use plastics requires fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
According to government data, Canadians use a whooping 15 billion plastic checkout bags yearly and another 16 million straws daily.
According to a UN report, plastic usage is expected to triple by 2060, and annual production will reach more than 1.2 billion tonnes in the same year. As such, countries must move with haste to contain the problem.
Countries leading the plastic fight
Canada joins a growing list of countries that have banned or are in the process of banning single-use plastics in their territories. They include:
- Rwanda: Rwanda introduced a nationwide ban on plastic bags in 2008. Those caught using plastic bags can face fines of up to $5,000 or up to five years in jail.
- Bangladesh: Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban single-use plastics, doing so in 2002. Violators face a fine of up to $383.
- Kenya: In 2017, Kenya became among the first countries in Africa to ban single-use plastic bags. The punishment for violating the ban is a fine of up to $38,000 or up to four years in jail.
- China: China has announced plans to ban several single-use plastics by 2025. This includes items such as straws, shopping bags, and food packaging.
- Taiwan: Taiwan has also announced plans to ban various single-use plastics, including straws, cups, and plates. The ban is set to go into effect in 2030.
- Tanzania: Tanzania banned plastic bags in 2006 and fines violators $380.
- South Africa: South Africa introduced a partial ban on plastic bags in 2003, followed by a complete ban in 2007. The penalties for breaking the law vary by province but can include a fine or imprisonment.
- Mauritania: In September 2019, Mauritania became the latest country to outlaw single-use plastics, with a total ban on manufacturing, importing, and using plastic bags. Those caught violating the ban can face up to two years in prison and a fine of about $1300.
These are just a few examples of the many countries that have taken steps to reduce plastic pollution by banning single-use plastics.
As awareness of the environmental impacts of plastic continues to grow, even more governments will likely enact similar bans in the years to come.
Ottawa: We have a plastic problem
The world has produced more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic since the 1950s. Sixty percent of that amount is in landfills, rivers, oceans, or burned, releasing harmful compounds into the air.
Despite the many documented problems with plastics, some manufacturing groups in Canada aren’t so pleased with the government’s decision to ban plastics. According to them, labeling plastic as toxic slows down “innovations” in the plastic industry and might hurt the economy without necessarily protecting the environment.
In response, the government has argued that it consulted widely in developing the regulations. It’d also offer the necessary support to make the transition.