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Have you eaten any plastic today?

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Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Despite its toxicity and its relatively recent appearance in our daily lives, plastic is literally everywhere: throughout our food chain, on our plates, in our children’s baby bottles...

Environmental organizations were therefore relieved to learn in 2018 that the federal government was signing the Ocean Plastics Charter.

In the two years that have passed, we have been looking forward to a series of ambitious, thoughtful measures by the Canadian government.

A few weeks ago, the federal government came out with its first major announcement on how to tackle the plastics problem. A step forward, to be sure, but not nearly enough considering the scope of the problem.

Here are a few points that deserve a closer look:

Canada recognizes plastic as a potentially toxic material.
This recognition was necessary, given plastic’s impacts on our water, wildlife, climate and health. Six single-use plastic items will be banned (plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics), effective as of the end of 2021.
A ban of only six items is too small a step toward a plastic-free future. Canadians were expecting far more. Focus on improving recycling, rather than banning plastics.
Building a less wasteful future requires reducing and banning plastics. The solution is simple: prohibit non-essential plastics.

Overuse of plastic for short-term profits is endangering our health and that of vulnerable ecosystems.

Plastic pollution is contributing to a spiral of collapsing ecosystems and wildlife loss. Much like other pollutants (petroleum, pesticides, etc.), it requires profound action on the part of our policy makers.

The main problem lies not in the choice of materials or technology, and it will not be solved by optimizing our recycling efforts. The heart of the problem is overconsumption, the product of an economic system disconnected from its impacts on human beings and the planet. If we don’t tackle this once and for all, we will continue to find ourselves in one environmental problem after another.

We can certainly play a significant role in this struggle, but we must be open to unpopular but necessary scenarios, including transitioning to an economy that is less wasteful, more circular and more local.