by Abbey Unsworth, Summer Student – Natural Edge and Love Your Lake
Canada has recently announced a ban on single-use plastics as part of a strategy to combat plastic pollution. The ban is set to take effect by 2021 and will most likely include items such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and take-out containers, but the specifics have not yet been determined. The strategy also focuses on companies that manufacture or sell plastic products, putting a responsibility on them for the management and recycling of their plastic waste. Fishing industries will also be included in the strategy with efforts focused on preventing and retrieving discarded fishing gear, known as ghost gear, which contributes to ocean plastic pollution and endangers wildlife (Pope, 2019).
Plastic pollution is a mounting global issue. In Canada, 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced each year, and only 9 percent of this is recycled. The rest is thrown away, overwhelming landfills and littering our streets, parks, and watersheds. The most commonly found items that are littering North America’s coastline are food wrappers, bottle caps, beverage bottles, plastic bags, straws, and stir sticks (“Environmental Impact,” 2019). Plastic is not biodegradable and it is widely used for its durability and cheap production costs which causes its persistence in the environment.
While this government ban is a step in the right direction in the fight against plastic pollution, as consumers we need to help by working to reduce our own plastic footprint. There are many simple ways which we can all participate, such as:
- Bringing a refillable water bottle or travel mug for coffee
- Request no straw when ordering drinks, and bring your own reusable straw made from metal or bamboo
- Avoid plastic stir sticks and using a metal spoon instead
- Bring your own reusable cutlery when grabbing lunch on-the-go
- Buy in bulk using reusable containers where possible
- Shop with reusable bags instead of single-use plastic ones
- Look for products that use less plastic in their packaging
- Switch to reusable beeswax or cheesecloth instead of plastic wrap
- Use reusable containers rather than plastic baggies
- Donate or trade unwanted clothing
- Learn proper recycling techniques
When learning about how to reduce your impact, don’t get overwhelmed. The world doesn’t need a few people doing this perfectly, it needs everyone trying to help imperfectly. Every change counts.
Environmental Impact, 10000 Changes. (2019). Retrieved from https://10000changes.ca/the-problem/environmental-impact/
Pope, A., Nerberg, S. (June 10, 2019). Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021. Retrieved from https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/canada-ban-single-use-plastics-2021