Earlier this month, the Trudeau government announced that a ban of harmful single-use plastics will be implemented in 2021, in order to reduce the amount of waste and pollution created from plastic products and packaging.
The ban would cover commonly in use plastics such as grocery bags, plastic cutlery, straws, plastic wrap and polystyrene (Styrofoam™) products. However, this ban would be grounded in scientific research and backing, as there are applications where single use plastics are beneficial for sanitary reasons (i.e. medical syringes and other equipment), unlike certain opinion articles have stated.
The ban is mainly implemented due to the negative effects it has to the environment. Most plastics used in grocery bags, straws, and plastic cutlery can take 1000s of years to break down with polystyrene taking up to a million years to break down taking into considerations of the conditions. However, these plastics would usually break down under sunlight, causing it to form tiny particles, and end up in water systems, affecting the aquatic life in lakes and rivers.
The plastic ban is not without any criticisms, as Andrew Sheer, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, said that there is a lack of detail on how the ban would affect the economy. In addition, plastic manufacturing can take a hit and lead to job losses due to the reduced amount of plastics produced after the ban.
Another criticism about the plastic ban is that Canada would have little affect in the larger scale of things since Canada produces less amounts of plastic waste compared to countries in South-East Asia.
This is not the first time Canada has banned the use of certain plastics. In 2018, microplastics in cosmetic and washing products were banned and removed from consumer products in Canada. This was due to microplastics seeping into rivers and lakes as they are sometimes too small to be filtered out in water-treatment systems.
The plastic ban may be implemented due to the Canadian recycling industry taking in even fewer types of items. Only a small percentage of plastics were recycled or converted to energy while a large portion of it ends up in landfills. In some cases, recycling can become a financial burden to some municipalities and most recyclable products could just end up in a landfill. Due to the costs of running a recycling program, it could be beneficial to just stop using single use plastics to avoid it from contaminating the environment.
Even before the ban, many companies had a goal to phase out single use plastics in their services. For example, some fast-food companies, such as A&W, replaced plastic straws with paper straws, which sometimes did not resonate that well with the customers, since the paper straws get soggy when placed in the drink for too long. In addition, some cities and municipalities, such as Montreal, Tofino, and Deep Cove within Canada had taken the steps to end the use of single use plastic products such as bags, straws and bottles. Even without a complete ban, one can also reduce the use of single use plastics by bringing reusable shopping bags when shopping, bringing a mug to coffee/tea places, and use reusable cutlery.
Hopefully, this ban would end the humiliation of shipping our garbage to Malaysia and the Philippines in shipping containers (Well most of the world did ship its garbage to China until it got banned). At least this may be the right direction Canada is heading towards and hopefully other countries can follow suit.