The fight against single-use plastic waste took a step forward this week. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his country will implement a nationwide ban of harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. Trudeau stopped short of listing specific plastic items that would be banned but said that a scientific review would determine the highest-priority action points. Plastic bags, water bottles, and straws appear to be at the top of the list. Specifics on the measure are to be clarified and released at a later date.
According to the report, Trudeau’s decision was largely influenced by a similar step taken by the European Union in March, which voted to ban 10 commonly used plastic items by 2021. “As early as 2021, Canada will ban harmful single-use plastics from coast to coast,” Trudeau said, alluding to fatherhood as another motivating factor. “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?”
Canada currently recycles less than 10 percent of the plastic it uses, with much of the rest being shipped to other countries for disposal. In May, the Philippines returned 69 containers of plastic to Canada after declaring the waste illegally transported. The timing of Trudeau’s announcement is hardly surprising. His liberal government plans to make climate action a major campaign issue leading into the country’s national elections this fall.
“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,” Trudeau said. “That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”