Canada is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to ban "harmful" single-use plastics, in a sweeping effort to fight pollution and keep them out of the environment. Most plastic bags, disposable cutlery, and plastic straws would fall under the new ban, as well as stir sticks, cups, and six-pack rings that hold cans together. Few exceptions have been made for medical needs and accessibility reasons, or other recognized specific cases.
Timeline: The order will phase in over the next several years, starting with a ban on the manufacture and import of single-use plastics from December 2022. Sales of the items will be prohibited the following year, while the measure will put an end to the export of Canadian plastics by the end of 2025. "Over the next 10 years, this ban will result in the estimated elimination of over 1.3 million tons of plastic waste and more than 22,000 tons of plastic pollution," tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "That's equal to a million garbage bags full of litter."
Banning single-use plastics will be a complex task given that they are abundant, convenient, and cheap. Businesses that rely heavily on the material will also need to develop new solutions, like the restaurant sector, where plastic takeout containers, cutlery, and bags are the norm. Many problems have also plagued the global supply chains since the pandemic, so tracking down plastic alternatives and procuring them can be a daunting task, especially for industries where margins are not all that high.
Go deeper: Other countries which have put in place various bans on single-use plastic include Chile, the U.K., and the European Union. However, Canada's neighbor to the south, the United States, ranks as the world's leading contributor of plastic waste by generating about 287 pounds of plastics per person annually. Some piecemeal efforts have been put in place by some states like New York and California, but the most action taken at the federal level has been to increase the U.S. recycling rate to 50% by 2030 and the phasing out of single-use plastic products in the national parks and other public lands by 2032.