The Trudeau government will move ahead with a ban on single-use plastics next year, after a federal science report found more than enough evidence that plastics pollution causes harm, with 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage ending up as litter in 2016.
“We will be moving towards a ban on harmful single-use plastics and we will be doing that in 2021,” Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Thursday, after releasing a draft of the assessment that will be open for public comment until April 1. While businesses will be given time to adapt to the new rules, “I think the Canadian public wants to see action quickly, so certainly if there is a phase-in period, it won’t be an extensive one.”
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A specific list of banned products will be available in the next few months, Wilkinson added.
The assessment was required under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act before the ban could take place, and documented pollution equivalent to 2.3 billion single-use plastic water bottles landing on Canada’s beaches, parks, and lakes, and even in the air, the Canadian Press reports.
“Some of the litter is easily visible: pieces bigger than five millimetres are called ‘macroplastics’,” the news agency explains. “But much of it is plastic most of us can’t easily see, called ‘microplastics’ and ‘microfibres’. These are tiny remnants of plastic smaller than five millimetres resulting from larger pieces of plastic breaking apart, or being shed from items like clothes made of synthetic fabrics, fleece blankets, and tires.”
The federal review “looks at the impact of all types of plastics and points to evidence that macroplastics are hurting wildlife: dead birds found with plastic in their intestines, or whales washing up on shore with stomachs filled with tonnes of plastic they ingested as they swam, including flip flops and nylon ropes,” CP adds. “In one case, a turtle was found emaciated and dying. When the plastic was removed from its digestive tract, the turtle recovered.”
There’s less certainty on the impact of microplastics on people and wildlife, so Ottawa will fund a two-year, C$2.2-million research program, after the assessment report called for further study.
Citing a recent industry audit, CP says less than 10% of the plastic produced in Canada is currently recycled.