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Canada’s Plastic-Free Law Moved to End of 2022

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Canada Drafted Plastic-Free Law

The time is up for plastic, at least in Canada. The Canadian government announced last December 2021 that single-use plastic will be banned by the end of 2022.

Environment Minister, Steven Guilbeault, published the draft regulations. The document details how the manufacturing, sale, and import of these single-use plastic products will be banned. This is a big move towards a plastic-free life when the country manufactures more than a third of its plastics for single-use.

So which single-use plastic items are disallowed? The regulation includes plastic cutlery, stirring sticks, plastic straws, and six-pack soda rings.

There are certain specs for each product. For example, plastic bags are made of plastic film, which is flimsy enough to tear if it carries 10 kg at a certain distance. For cutlery, the ban covers plastic spoons, forks, sporks, and chopsticks that will melt under hot (but not boiling) water. There will be a few exceptions, e.g. plastic straws for people with disabilities.

For environmentalists and zero-waste lifestyle enthusiasts - anyone aware of the plastic stats, this comes as a piece of good news.

Canada's plastic waste has been a glaring problem. Each year, Canadians use around 15 billion plastic bags. And every day, as many as 57 million straws are thrown away! Single-use plastics have been relied upon for too long. More than one-third of plastics produced here are meant for single use. These are the very items that the proposed regulation wants to disallow.

Why Choose to Go Plastic-Free

There are several reasons why going plastic-free makes sense. Aside from the amount of trash they create, plastic is a petroleum-based material. Manufacture and recycling of it emit carbon and uses non-renewable resources. When you factor in how much single-use plastic is literally used once then thrown away, that's where the huge concern is.

And recycling is largely a myth even in today's technologies. While there are plastic recycling facilities, only 9% of the total plastic waste gets recycled. The majority of the country's plastic waste, a whopping 86 percent, still ends up in either landfills or marine systems.

The draft regulations are open to public comment until March 5 of this year. The enactment of the final version of the law will depend on how much feedback is received. And World Trade Organization rules allow for a phase-in period of six months once it is published. Only then will we see how plastic-free will look like in the country.

Experts Weigh In

In the same CBC news report, Greenpeace Canada's Head, Sarah King, said that the government is moving too slowly. She suggests that more single-use plastic items be included, namely plastic bottles, coffee cups, food wrappers, and cigarette filters.

King states, "Canadians have been waiting a long time for the federal government to take strong and urgent action to tackle plastic waste and pollution and these regulations definitely don't reflect that call to action," she said.

She also advises that the government realign available resources. A bigger focus on reusing and refilling systems is a better approach, rather than recycling single-use plastics.

Meanwhile, Karen Wirsig, the country's Environmental Defence plastic programs manager, agrees with expanding the banned items, "including hot and cold drink cups and lids, which are consistently found littered in the environment". And, she voices concern about how Canada's export plastic products may still pollute other countries.

Plastic-Free Living Can’t Slow Down

While this is a step in the right direction, it’s still disappointing how it was pushed back to the end of 2022. We’ve all been urging the government to show its teeth when pushing for environmental legislation like plastic-free living, but almost a year delay for banning what is too small a list of items is unfortunate.

There's still a long road ahead to changing single-use plastic behavior. Government regulations can help on a large scale, even if gradually. It's understandable that plastic-free advocates and zero-waste practitioners like us want more. Still, this proposed regulation is a step in the right direction - and one that can't come soon enough.

Along with laws, there needs to be a deeper mindset change among us consumers. And in the meantime, more sustainable plastic alternatives for essential single-use packaging and items (that won't languish in landfills for centuries) should become commonplace to the general public.

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