Did you know that the United Nations has declared plastic pollution the second most ominous threat to the global environment, right after climate change?
Every year, more than eight million metric tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans – the equivalent of a garbage truck worth of plastic every minute. It’s no newsflash that plastic is choking our oceans and killing and maiming the creatures that live there.
That is why Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s decision this week to declare plastic Toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is so important. This is the fastest and most direct route to much-needed regulatory action, including a meaningful ban on non-essential single-use plastics.
Bans on single-use plastics aren’t shocking public policy; they are the new normal. More than 32 countries and innumerable jurisdictions around the world have already banned or are on the way to banning single-use plastics. The European Union, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Chile, Peru and Belize, to name a few, all have plastic bans. Even the newly introduced Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the United States includes bans. And, with the addition of plastics to CEPA’s List of Toxic Substances, Canada’s next step is to finalize its ban on harmful and non-essential single-use plastics by the end of 2021.
Unfortunately, as currently proposed, Canada’s plastic ban doesn’t go far enough. It only includes six single-use plastic items — many of which have already been banned by local governments or phased out by companies — and will barely make a dent in the nearly 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste thrown away in Canada every year. According to the Minister of Environment, the ban covers less than one per cent of Canada’s current plastic use.
That’s why Oceana Canada has been urging the government to expand its proposed ban to include other non-essential single-use plastic items, such as:
- Items that are commonly found littered in the environment, like coffee cups and cigarette filters;
- Items that other jurisdictions have already banned, like lightweight produce bags and plastic egg cartons; and
- Materials that are particularly problematic in the environment, like oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene, or items that contain toxic chemicals.
In Canada, we use 1.4 per cent of all plastic produced globally — even though we represent less than 0.5 per cent of the global population. Forty-seven per cent of our plastic waste is from packaging — the majority of which is single-use — and more than 90 per cent of it ends up in landfills or incinerators, or polluting the environment.
Declaring plastic CEPA-Toxic puts us one step closer to ending the fatal flow of plastic into our oceans. Now the government must move swiftly to ban non-essential and harmful single-use plastics.
Join us and add your voice, calling on the Canadian government to expand the ban list and to fulfill their commitment to end the plastic disaster.