Federal ban on single-use plastics by 2021: Reduction at the source must be put at the forefront
As has been done by the European Union, the Canadian federal government announced today that it will tackle single-use plastics. The initiative adds to what is being done by the many individuals, organizations and governments that are already working to address this serious problem by banning or implementing alternatives to plastic and single-use packaging.
PLASTIC IS A PROBLEM – ESPECIALLY SINGLE-USE
“There are two problem elements with single-use plastics,” states Colleen Thorpe, Équiterre’s Interim Executive Director. “First of all the plastic, made of petrochemicals, which takes several hundreds of years to decompose and is therefore very polluting both before and after the few minutes that we use them. And then there’s the whole concept of single-use, a fairly recent socioeconomic phenomenon that requires a tremendous amount of resources, is unnecessary and must change.”
“We can no longer fill up our recycling bins and feel good that we’re doing something positive for the environment, especially considering that less than 10% of plastic used in Canada is recycled. We need to drastically reduce the amount of waste that we produce. Reduction is the only solution that works 100 % of the time,” adds Ms. Thorpe.
According to Équiterre, the government’s willingness to ban single-use plastics must be channelled to strategies to reduce plastic waste at the source, and not to finding substitutes or replacements. To push that even further, the government could tax single-use containers and encourage waste reduction initiatives and behaviours, rather than investing in alternatives. Eco-fiscal measures can play an important role to make industry take responsibility for the costs of plastic, from production right through to waste management.
A CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS TO MITIGATE INDUSTRY INTERESTS
“There must be a clear and transparent process to ensure that there is a balance of power around this plan. We can’t have the interests of the plastic industry, an extension of the petrochemical industry, overshadowing initiatives to reduce at the source, in the context of the climate emergency,” concludes Ms. Thorpe.