How to prepare for the proposed 2021 single-use plastic ban
Grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery, takeout containers to be banned
Environmental and waste management experts in Waterloo region say there are steps residents can take now, ahead of the proposed 2021 single-use plastic ban, to help decrease the amount of plastic sent to the landfill locally.
Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled the list of soon-to-be banned items Oct. 7, which includes grocery checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery, and food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics (like black plastic packaging).
"These changes are very good because they do move away from the single-use behaviour that we have, and that we need to change. In terms of what we see in the Blue Box, these are actually a very small amount of what we do see," said Kathleen Barsoum, Waterloo Region Waste Management Coordinator.
Barsoum noted that while most of the listed items are not recyclable in the Region of Waterloo Blue Box program, such as plastic straws, cutlery, and stir sticks, the regional facilities can currently accept some plastic takeout containers and bags as long as they're sorted correctly.
"We do like to focus on items that we do have great processors for," she said. "Plastic bags mixed in with containers can cause problems with the container sorting, and once the plastic bags get food product on them, it does diminish the recyclability of the product."
Barsoum said over the years residents have improved in their ability to identify items that can be reused and recycled and by sorting their garbage into the appropriate program. But she added that overall "user behaviour" of products can still stand to change, especially as new material comes onto the market.
"Some of the other issues that we do see with straws and stir sticks, and plastic cutlery is more with I would have to say user behaviour. It's litter, being left on the ground. The six pack rings, of course, taken back to the beer store. When you take your empties back, they can accept those and recycle those," said Barsoum.
A University of Waterloo Professor, who studies marketing, social psychology and sustainability, and strategies for encouraging behaviour-based change, says she has also observed positive changes made when it comes to limiting single use plastics locally.
Jennifer Lynes, Faculty of Environment Associate Professor said the popularity of businesses like Zero Waste Bulk and Avocado Co-op in Waterloo, shows an appetite and understanding for eliminating plastic use.
"That has proven to be quite popular, especially amongst the younger population, they're really looking among this minimal consumption trend in terms of packaging ... I think there is definitely a demand on the consumer side for this," said Lynes.