The days are numbered for single-use plastic straws, cutlery, grocery bags and take-out containers in Canada.
The federal government unveiled Wednesday which single-use plastics will be banned by the end of 2021:
- Grocery bags
- Six-pack rings
- Food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics (like black plastic packaging)
- Stir sticks
“When a ban comes into effect, your local stores will be providing you with alternatives to these plastic products,” according to Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, adding that he knows it’s hard to come back from a trip to the grocery store without single-use plastic products, especially food packaging, but that “has to change.”
The minister said the government was careful to choose items with environmentally-friendly alternatives already on the market.
Ottawa will continue to consult before the new regulations are finalized and come into play at the end of next year.
The ban will not impact plastics used in medical settings, or impact access to personal protective equipment.
“We’re also investigating solutions to recycle PPE where it is safe to do so, and options to make some of the PPE biodegradable.” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson acknowledged many restaurants have switched to take-out meals because of the pandemic, which has meant more cutlery going out the door. He said many single-use items will continue, but they will need to be items that can be recycled.
The environment minister said polystyrene is difficult to recycle.
“Many, many of the restaurants that do takeout have already transitioned away from polystyrene to other forms, whether it’s cardboard or different forms of paper, which are recyclable.”
Alarm bells have gone off among some business groups concerned about “significant costs” that small businesses could face as a result of the ban.
Aaron Henry of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that it remains unclear how this policy will address the current fragmented approaches to disposing consumer products, and added that, at this time when many businesses are counting every dollar, any extra costs could make the difference between staying open and closing for good.
“Canadian businesses recognize the significant benefits of alternatives to single-use plastics and the importance of bolstering Canada’s circular economy. However, Canada’s approach must go beyond surface issues like bans, to address the critical infrastructure required to deliver on the positive benefits for the environment.”
The Trudeau government has set a target of at least 50 per cent recycled content in plastic products by 2030.
The government reports about one-third of the plastics used in this country are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging, including nearly 57 million straws used daily and 15 billion plastic bags every years.