Politics

Ottawa announces plans to ban single-use plastics starting in 2021 at the earliest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will ban single-use plastics, which could include bags, straws and cutlery, in Canada in 2021 at the earliest.

PM says list of banned items in Canada still needs to be firmed up

A shopper places her goods into her car outside a supermarket in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Newfoundland and Labrador has announced it will become the second province to ban plastic bags. (Mark Baker/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will ban single-use plastics — which could include bags, straws and cutlery — in Canada in 2021 at the earliest.

"We need to cover all of Canada with this decision and that's why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021," said Trudeau during a stop Monday at the Gault Nature Reserve in Mont St-Hilaire, just outside Montreal.

A full list of banned items isn't set in stone, but a government source told CBC News that the list also could include items like cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates and balloon sticks. Fast-food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, which is similar to white Styrofoam, will also be banned, said the source.

Trudeau said the government will research the question of which items it should ban and follow the model chosen by the European Union, which voted in March to ban plastic items for which market alternatives exist — such as single-use plastic cutlery and plates — and items made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags. (Oxo-degradable plastics aren't really biodegradable; they contain additives that cause the plastic to fragment without breaking down chemically.)

He also revealed plans to make companies that manufacture or sell plastic products to take responsibility for recycling their plastic waste.

"Whether we're talking about plastic bottles or cellphones, it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they're manufacturing and putting out into the world," said Trudeau.

Countries move to curb marine litter

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the plan lacks any details about how it would affect the economy. 

"In the dying days of this government — with a scandal-plagued government, with a prime minister desperate to change the channel — we see another gesture without a plan without any kind of specifics about how this would be implemented or any kind of study on the impact on prices for consumers, on jobs, on how this would affect small businesses," he told reporters in Ottawa

"This is clearly just a government clutching at straws."

Environment and Climate Change Canada says Canadians throw away more than 34 million plastic bags every day that often wind up in landfills, and it can take as long as 1,000 years for them to decay.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the European Union signed on to the Ocean Plastics charter at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que., last June, agreeing to find ways to deal with marine plastics litter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waits as he is introduced during a news conference in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., Monday, June 10, 2019. Trudeau announced his government's intention to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

All of those countries have moved to curb plastic pollution; some have passed laws to reduce the consumption of plastics.

"We've all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans. Canadians expect us to act," said Environment Minister Catherine McKenna during an announcement Monday in Toronto.

A report done earlier this year by consulting firms Deloitte and ChemInfo Services, and commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, found that in 2016, only nine per cent of plastic waste was recycled in Canada and 87 per cent ended up in landfills.

Isabelle Des Chenes, executive vice-president with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said a proposed ban on certain single-use plastics in Canada likely won't affect billions of dollars in new petrochemical projects coming on stream in Alberta and Ontario.

But she told the Canadian Press her organization wants to be involved in the process to make sure future regulations are supported by scientific evidence and any outright bans are imposed only where there are no "viable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternatives."

Canada's petrochemical industry has received a boost in recent years, thanks largely to incentive programs by federal and provincial governments.

In Alberta, Inter Pipeline Ltd. and Pembina Pipeline Ltd. are building polypropylene projects to turn propane into plastic at a cost of $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively. Nova Chemicals Corp. in Ontario is in the midst of a $2 billion expansion of its Sarnia polyethylene plant.

The Liberals' proposed ban follows in the wake of the NDP's environmental plan released just over a week ago. It promised to ban single-use plastics across Canada by 2022.

Scheer has said his party will release its climate plan this month.

The tight deadline is part of the party's environmental platform, released earlier today. It pledges to spend $15 billion and create some 300,000 jobs while exceeding emission targets set under the Paris accord to fight climate change.

Canada has recently been roasted in international headlines after dozens of containers of rotting garbage and contaminated recyclables sat festering in the Philippines. 

The company that sent the mislabelled containers is no longer operating and Ottawa is spending $1.14 million to bring those cargo containers back to Canada for disposal.

PM Justin Trudeau announces that a ban on single use plastics, and that companies that make or use plastic in their products will be responsible for the collection and recycling of that material. 1:23

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With files from the CBC's Hannah Thibedeau and the Canadian Press

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