Canada plans to ban some single-use plastics like straws, bags and cutlery by early 2021 to reduce waste and litter and protect the world’s oceans, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
Trudeau announced the move from the banks of a lake in Gault Nature Reserve in Quebec less than five months before a national election in which climate change and pollution are widely expected to be among the top campaign issues.
“To be honest, as a dad, it’s tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?” Trudeau said.
“As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”
Last year, Canada sponsored a G7 ocean plastics charter intended to spur a reduction in plastics use, and in May the United Nations said 180 countries reached a deal to sharply reduce the amount of plastic that gets washed into the oceans.
Exactly which types of plastics will be targeted will be a science-based decision, Trudeau said. The initiative includes requiring manufacturers of plastics to be responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, he added.
Less than 10 percent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled. The government said that one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals worldwide are injured or die each year when they mistake plastic for food or become entangled.
The EU’s measure would affect a range of plastic products for which reasonable alternatives exist, from straws to earbuds, starting in 2021.
Disposable utensils would not be completely off-limits, but the EU measure calls for them to be made of sustainable materials when possible. The EU legislation also sets a goal of having 90 percent of plastic bottles recycled by 2025 and of halving the litter from the 10 items that turn up in oceans most often.
The EU estimated the changes would cost the bloc’s economy $291m to $781m. It’s not clear what the cost would be for Canada.
China’s decision to no longer import some of the EU’s waste helped spur the plastics ban.
China banned the import of plastic waste last year, causing other Southeast Asian nations to become new destinations. The Philippines, complaining of being treated like a dumpsite by wealthier nations, shipped 69 containers of what its officials called illegally transported garbage back to Canada in May.