By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has announced last week it will ban single-use plastics by the beginning of 2021. The ban is expected to reduce by three million tons the amount of plastic waste thrown away by the country every year.
“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” said Prime Minister Trudeau during the announcement in Quebec.
“We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come,” said Trudeau.
The ban will include bags, plastic straws, cotton swabs, plates and cutlery. Fast-food containers and cups made of polystyrene, which is similar to styrofoam, will also be banned.
Calling plastic pollution a global challenge that requires ‘immediate action’, the Prime Minister said that plastic waste litters parks and beaches, pollutes rivers, lakes, and oceans, and kills marine animals.
Environmentalists estimate that one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals worldwide are injured or die every year when they mistake plastic for food or become entangled in the waste.
“We’ve reached a defining moment, and this is a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore. With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility, and an opportunity, to lead in reducing plastic pollution,” Trudeau argued.
Some places such as Deep Cove in British Columbia, Fogo Island and Montreal are banning the use of plastic straws, bottles and bags, but environmentalists say that there needs to be a concentrated, national effort.
A report released earlier this year, commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, showed that only nine percent of plastic waste was recycled in Canada in 2016 while 87 percent ended up in landfills.
According to the government agency, Canadians throw away more than 34 million plastic bags every day. Canadian officials say the list of banned plastic materials by the Canadian government will be similar to that banned by the European Union in May.
Last year, at the G7 in Quebec, the Canadian leader had announced a Canada-led Ocean Plastics Charter. The new measure is also expected to support the Canada’s action plan to implement the nationwide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said the Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste is expected to create opportunities that will increase competitiveness in new business models, product design solutions, and waste prevention technologies.
“Taking these steps will help create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and make our economy even stronger—while protecting fish, whales, and other wildlife, and preserving the places we love,” she last week to reporters.
Last week’s announcement comes a few months before the October’s general election, where issues like climate change and pollution are widely expected to be among voters’ top concerns.
With the ban, Canada will be the second country in the Americas to ban plastic bags. In February, Chile became the first Latin American country to prohibit plastic bag use in all shops and supermarkets.