British Columbia

Environmentalists 'encouraged' by G7 plastics charter but urge more action

Environmentalists say a plastics charter agreed to by five leaders at the G7 Summit in Quebec is encouraging, but should be binding.

Non-binding agreement signed by 5 of 7 leaders a promise to eradicate plastics pollution

One week's worth of plastic waste, used and collected by one North American family. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Environmentalists say a plan agreed upon by a majority of leaders at the G7 Summit in Quebec to keep plastics from polluting the Earth's oceans is encouraging, but should be binding.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a joint communiqué at the end of the summit that he and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. agreed to a plastics charter that would deal with the pollution created by single-use plastics items like bottles, cups and bags that have become everyday items of modern life.

Japan and the U.S. were the two countries that did not commit to the charter.

"This is an important step towards achieving a life cycle economy in which all plastics would be recycled and re-purposed," Trudeau said.

He says the charter would help the environment, but also businesses that "could stand to benefit from reducing the cost associated to plastic use."

Canada invests $100M

Canada will contribute $100 million to ridding the oceans of global plastic pollution, according to Trudeau. 

However there were few other details released about the plan.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace Canada said the charter is a non-binding, voluntary agreement that doesn't address single-use plastics.

"Recycling alone will not solve this problem and reduction measures are necessary if we are serious about curbing ocean plastics," said campaigner Farrah Khan in a release.

Khan wants Canada to create binding legislation that sets reduction targets, bans single-use plastics and holds corporations responsible for the plastics they use.

Before the summit, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna talked about a desire for the charter.

She said it could go further than the European Union's plan to recycle at least half of its plastic packaging by 2030.

McKenna said that Canada would also try to have other countries ban microbeads, which are tiny pieces of plastics found in some toiletries.

Starting July 1, the sale of products with the beads will be banned in Canada.

Daily plastic announcements

The environment minister also said the federal government could help produce resources and education to enable groups to help drive change.

'You know so everyday there is a new announcement and that makes me very encouraged about where we're headed,' says Peter Ross, with Oceanwise in Vancouver about plastic pollution. 'Whether we're headed there fast enough, remains to be seen.' (CBC)

For some people who have studied ocean pollution for decades, all the talk is a good sign.

"On the plastic front, I wake up encouraged by a new announcement every single day," said Peter Ross, vice president of  research for the Vancouver-based conservation group Oceanwise.

Ross says the average Canadian uses up to four times their body in throw away plastic every year.

"We need people to step up at every walk of life and that includes individuals, governments, corporations, we really need a team effort on this one," he said about solving the problem of plastic pollution.

He says he's delighted by the plastics charter at the G7, saying that countries representing a significant portion of the world's economy have recognized that it's a problem that needs attention.