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Plastic pollution in Canada: The time for action is now

“With the proper tools and rules in place, a better, greener, and more circular economy awaits.”
Minister Steven Guilbeault. Photo: Alex Tétreault

By Steven Guilbeault

Plastic is everywhere.

We use it in packaging, construction, agriculture, automobiles, electronics, textiles, and medical equipment.

While plastic has revolutionized our lives, plastic pollution has emerged as a key environmental issue worldwide.

Of the four million tonnes of plastic waste that is thrown away in Canada every year, only eight percent is recycled.

The rest ends up in landfills and our natural environment, littering our parks, beaches, streets, and other places we value.

Plastic pollution chokes wildlife and clogs waterways.

It breaks down into tiny pieces, ending up in the soil, oceans, and air, and even our drinking water and food.

We have to change this.

It’s what Canadians are asking for.

Now is the time for action.

Just recently, our federal government announced we are banning some of the most common and harmful single-use plastics, including plastic checkout bags, plastic cutlery, six-pack rings, stir sticks, straws, and certain hard-to-recycle food containers like clamshells.

While the domestic production and import of these harmful single-use plastics will be banned at the end of this year, Canadian businesses like restaurants can use them until the end of next year, which gives them time to adjust.

Over the next decade, this world-leading ban on harmful single-use plastics will result in the estimated elimination of over 1.3 million tonnes of hard to recycle plastic waste. This is all about creating cleaner communities and a cleaner environment.

It’s about giving Canadians the sustainable alternatives they’re asking for and developing new business opportunities in a greener economy. This ban represents a historic step in our government’s promise to cut plastic waste from across our society, wherever possible.

But we know we cannot ban our way out of this problem.

Plastic will remain a useful part of our lives. Our government’s plan is about responsibly managing plastic so it stays in the economy and stops polluting our environment.

Our comprehensive plan will also mean plastic manufacturers will have to use 50 percent recycled plastic in any plastic products they make, and that the “chasing-arrows” recycling symbol on products can only be used if we know these products can actually be recycled in Canada.

These are just good, common sense management measures.

And they will help to grow our economy towards a more circular management of waste products that is proven to generate jobs and reduce business costs.

Canadians have been very clear. They want to get plastic pollution off our streets, out of our water, and out of our environment.

With the proper tools and rules in place, a better, greener, and more circular economy awaits.

Steven Guilbeault,

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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