Canada will ban single-use plastics from 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday, declaring it a “global challenge” to phase out the plastic bags, straws and cutlery clogging the world’s oceans.
“I am very pleased to announce that as early as 2021, Canada will ban harmful, single-use plastics from coast to coast,” Trudeau said, arguing Canada has a unique chance to lead the fight against plastic pollution as the country with the world’s longest coastlines.
Less than 10 percent of plastics used in Canada are currently recycled, he said.
Each year, a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals worldwide are injured or killed by becoming entangled in plastic or ingesting it through the food chain.
Single-use items represent about 70 percent of the plastic waste littering the marine environment.
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Straws, plastic bags, cutlery, plates and stir sticks would be among the items banned, a government statement said. The list will be refined based on further scientific research between now and 2021.
Trudeau said it is “tough” trying to explain the problem to his own children.
“How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?” he said.
The environmental group Greenpeace called the government’s announcement “the first step” but said ultimately Canada needs to move towards phasing out a wider array of “all non-essential plastics.”
It called for quick action “so this announcement isn’t a single-use election promise.”
The environment is shaping up as an issue in Canadian legislative elections set for October.
Trudeau’s chief rival, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, dismissed the government measure as “another gesture without a plan, without any kind of specifics on how this would be implemented, or any kind of study on the impact on prices for consumers, on jobs, on how this would affect the small businesses.”
If he wins the election, Scheer vows to roll back environmental protections, including a federal carbon tax and a tanker traffic ban along a pristine part of the Pacific coast.
‘The entire life-cycle’
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, many residents endorsed the government’s move.
“I think it’s stupid to have a straw for five minutes for a latte or whatever and then it goes in the ocean. I mean come on, give me a break. This is not necessary,” a man who gave his name as John said.
“If it is banned, we are going to learn” how to deal with it, “for future generations,” said Evelyn, another resident.