Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that the federal government is working towards reducing plastic waste, supporting innovation, and promoting alternatives to single-use plastics.
“We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy,” says Prime Minister Trudeau. “We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come.”
The plan is to ban single-use plastics identified as harmful (e.g. plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks) as early as 2021; reduce pollution from plastic products/packaging; and introduce standards and targets for companies that are involved in manufacturing or distributing plastic packaging.
The measures “will be grounded in scientific evidence” and support the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.
“Canadians expect us to act,” says Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. “That’s why our government intends to ban harmful single-use plastic products where science warrants it, and why we’re working with partners across Canada and around the world to reduce plastic pollution.”
According to a government press release, improving how plastic waste is managed, and supporting alternatives could generate billions of dollars in revenue and create approximately 42,000 jobs, while reducing carbon pollution by 1.8 million tonnes.
The interest in banning single-use plastics is not new to Canada (nor is it without its controversy).
Wetaskiwin County, in Alberta, for example, passed a Plastic Checkout Bag Bylaw at a City Council Meeting in October 2018. The “plastic bag ban” prohibits retail outlets from selling or distributing single-use plastic bags thinner than 2.0 millimetres (with exceptions). The bylaw came into effect this week.
There’s also work being done in Alberta on managing agricultural plastics.
Made up of over 20 organizations, the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group formed in 2016 to “advance the discussion and action on the topic of agricultural plastics recycling.” Early this year, the provincial government announced a $1 million contribution to support a three-year pilot program. The pilot will look at recycling grain bags and twine; researching markets for other plastics not included in the pilot; a waste characterization study; surveying and educating producers. This month, the group named CleanFarms as the program operator.
A similar pilot program ran in Saskatchewan from 2011 to 2017, and the province is now operating a regulated recycling program for grain bags.
It is unclear at this time whether or not the federal government will look at single-use plastics in industries such as agriculture.