Good Intentions are Pure
We’ve all done it: paid the extra two dollars for a reusable cloth bag at the grocery store and felt the surge of do-good energy in helping to contribute to the betterment of environmental health. A week passes and we have to make a stop on the way home from work because avocados are on sale and we just poured the last bit of oat beverage into our coffee at 6:45 AM on our way out the door. Success in the sales department, tracking down a half-off greek yogurt coupon and a deal on two cartons of unsweetened oat milk for under 10 dollars and things are really looking up.
But wait… now it’s time to cash out and we’ve completely forgotten our reusable bags at home. Do we buy a new one to carry the small handful of food, or do we take the plastic bag and rest easy knowing that using the plastic bags from the grocery store is only a once-in-a-while occurrence?
Single-use plastics or SUPs make up more than one-third of our plastic production in Canada, meaning that the intention when producing more than half of the nation’s plastics is that they will be used only once and non-recycled. Canadians use an estimated 15 billion plastic bags each year which contributes to a total yearly plastic waste amount of 3.3 million tonnes. Plastic is one of the leading causes of global pollution, presenting a mass amount of non-biodegradable material that, over time, leaks chemicals and causes great damage to the environment.
Toxic Plastic Ban Implemented
If you live in Canada and have been paying attention to the frequency at which we see single-use plastics. You may have noticed a reduction in the number of items such as grocery bags and straws being used in restaurants and shopping centers. This is all thanks to the implementation of a single-use plastics ban that began at the end of 2022 and will continue to unfold until 2025.
So What did the Ban, Ban?
There are six primary categories for the single-use plastic items that Canada has banned or has scheduled the ban for:
- Plastic grocery bags: Dec 2022
- Plastic stir sticks: Dec 2022
- Plastic Cutlery: Dec 2022 (Knives, spoons, forks, chopsticks)
- Straight plastic straws: Date not yet released (Straight straws, and straws that bend)
- Food service ware: Dec 2022 (containing materials such as carbon black, polyvinyl chloride, and oxo-degradable plastic)
- Ring carriers: Jun 20, 2023 (meant for carrying multipacks of beverages)
To clarify: By 2025 Canadians will be unable to manufacture, import, and sell any of these items. They will also be prohibited from manufacturing these products to sell to other countries.
Are we Seeing Changes?
Maybe you have noticed a different product design holding your six-pack of beer. Or the return to the classic paper bag at the checkout in your local supermarket. Some early adopters have already begun using more sustainable product designs in order to rid of the need for SUPs as soon as possible. From reusable straws to paper-based sporks, to companies that sell reusable produce bags. There are businesses putting in the work to help change our current overconsumption of plastic.
Side note: If you have seen any of the banned SUP items still currently in use, this is in relation to the overstock of these products. Shop owners and businesses have been allocated a grace period in order to use the stock they already have, but can not replenish it once it is gone.
Exceptions to the Rule
This prohibition feels like progress, and it is. But we want to make it clear that generalizing the situation by saying “all single-use plastics have been banned” would be an overstatement. There are many similar products that have not yet been prohibited.
Here is a list of examples: Bags used to hold recyclable items, bags intended to hold garbage meant for landfill or incineration, bags used in grocery stores for fruit, vegetables, candy, grains, etc… bags for meat, poultry or fish, bags used to wrap flowers or potted plants, and bags used for baked goods. These are examples of single-use plastics that are not yet scheduled to be banned. The bans recently introduced are just a start, and to make an impact we hope to see further prohibition efforts for more single-use plastic items in Canada.
Projected Outcome of this Ban
It is estimated that Canada could see an elimination of 1.3 million tonnes of non-recyclable plastic over the next ten years and a reduction of roughly 22 thousand tonnes of plastic pollution.
So, is All of This Enough?
When discussing the state of the environment and how we care for it, there are infinite sources of negativity. We can easily speak in length about the irreparable damage caused by human waste, pollution, overconsumption, air travel, and so much more… But we believe when something good happens that it should be acknowledged.
The Canadian government taking this new step towards prohibiting the manufacturing and use of single-use plastics is a big deal. This acknowledgment by the government shows that change on a large level is possible. Though this absolutely does not mean that our work here is done. As much as we must celebrate these small victories, there will always be more work to do.
We urge you as a reader, a consumer, and a human being to continue learning about this issue. And to pay attention to the ways you use plastic from plastic water bottles to food packaging. Maybe the next time you go to grab a few apples you’ll transfer them from the stand to the basket, to a reusable cloth bag… we know it seems small. But actions like these can rework the way we interact with waste and (if built upon) could someday yield big results.
The government’s action to ban single-use plastics can’t stop here. We at GuidEd implore you to continue pushing for furthering the plastic ban mandate. You can take action and find ways to stay involved here, here, and here and as always. Keep doing your own research and sharing your knowledge with others. Conservation is a mindset.
What is a single-use plastic you would like to see banned in Canada and why?
Let us know in the comments.