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Canada banning plastic bags, straws, other single-use items by end of 2021

Wednesday, October 7th 2020, 2:59 pm - Proposed ban was a campaign promise back in 2019

The end is coming for plastic grocery bags, straws and cutlery after the federal government announced today which single-use plastics will be covered by a national ban coming into effect next year.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled the list of soon-to-be-banned items Wednesday morning at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

As it was compiling the list, the government said it considered plastics that are harmful to the environment and hard to recycle, and whether there are readily available alternatives.

The single-use plastics that will be banned are:

  • Grocery checkout bags
  • Straws
  • Stir sticks
  • Six-pack rings
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics (like black plastic packaging)
  • The regulations to introduce the ban will be finalized by the end of 2021, said Wilkinson.

"When a ban comes into effect, your local stores will be providing you with alternatives to these plastic products, like reusable or paper bags in place of plastic," he said.

"I know it is presently hard to come back from the grocery store without a single use plastic item ... You use it, you throw it in the recycling bin and more often than not, it ends up in a landfill. This has to change, which is why we'll be working with grocers and industry leaders and provinces and territories to keep more plastic in our economy through recycling."

CBC plastic ban in canada The federal government unveiled which single-use plastics will be covered by a national ban coming into effect in 2021. (CBC Graphics)

When asked how small businesses — especially restaurants surviving on takeout sales during the pandemic — will handle the shift, Wilkinson said the government was careful to choose items with environmentally-friendly alternatives on the market.

"We've been very sensitive to try and ensure this can be done in a very much affordable way for all businesses," he said.

"I mean, most of the beer industry has already moved away from [plastic six-pack rings] and moved to hard caps on the top of them, which are recyclable "

Wilkinson said the ban will not include plastics used to make personal protective gear or medical waste.

As part of the government's goal to reach zero plastic waste by 2030, the federal government said it's developing new standards for other plastic items to require them to contain a minimum amount of recycled material.

REPORT FLAGGED WILDLIFE CONCERNS

The ban, which follows some local bans on single-use plastics, is happening under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which required a scientific assessment of the problem first.

That assessment report, released in January, said that in 2016, 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage — the equivalent of about 2.3 billion single-use plastic water bottles — ended up as litter in Canada on beaches, in parks, in lakes and even in the air.

The report looked at the impact of all types of plastics and pointed to evidence that macroplastics — pieces bigger than 5 mm — are hurting wildlife.

Dead birds have been found with plastic in their intestines, whales have washed up on shore with stomachs full of plastic (including flip flops and nylon ropes). In one case cited by the study, an emaciated turtle was found with plastic in its digestive tract.

The evidence was less clear about the harmful impacts of ingesting microplastics for people and wildlife, and the scientists recommended further study.

At the time, Wilkinson said the evidence on the effects of macroplastics was enough to go ahead with the ban.

With files from the Canadian Press

This article was originally published by CBC News

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