Cashier bags, straws and four other single-use plastic items will be banned in Canada until the end of 2021, the environment minister said on Wednesday, while acknowledging the nation is lagging behind Europe in recycling efforts.
The ban, which also affects stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food made from hard-to-recycle plastics, is part of a broader plan to get rid of plastic waste by 2030 that is at the heart of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate and environment agenda.
But Environment Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson admitted: “We are not world leaders here.”
“Many countries in Europe, including the UK, have taken this path and we have certainly learned from the work done,” he said at a press conference.
According to Ottawa, Canadians throw away three million tons of plastic waste every year – including 15 billion bags a year and 57 million straws a day. Only nine percent of it is recycled.
According to Wilkinson, Ottawa wants to increase that number to 90 percent, which is in line with the European targets for 2029.
He said that of the six plastic items that will be banned, there are already “readily available and affordable alternatives”.
“There are many (plastics) that still have to be single-use,” he added. “But it has to be the things that we can recycle and that we can keep in the economy and not end up in the environment where they cause problems.”
Plastic lids on coffee cups have been highlighted as the most visible plastic litter in urban landfills. Wilkinson said he was still working on a solution.
Ottawa also suggested setting requirements for recycled content in products and packaging in hopes of encouraging recycling and inviting better product design to extend the life of plastic materials.
“This could include a minimum requirement for recycled content in new products and greater responsibility for manufacturers and sellers to collect and recycle plastics,” he said.