Starting Tuesday, Canada will ban the manufacture and import for sale of single-use plastics in an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The ban covers single-use plastics including checkout bags, cutlery, food service ware, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws, the federal government stated in a news release published on June 20.
While the ban on the manufacture and import of single-use plastics will come into effect Tuesday, the sale of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023 to “allow businesses in Canada enough time to transition and to deplete their existing stocks,” according to the government’s website.
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The ban on the manufacture and import of ring carriers (often used for beverage containers) will go into force in June 2023.
In addition, Canada will also prohibit the export of plastics in the same six categories by the end of 2025.
Every year, Canadians throw away at least 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, with only nine per cent being recycled and the rest ending up in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or nature, according to Environment Canada.
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Canada’s single-use plastic ban is “an important step” that could eliminate an estimated 1.3 million tonnes of plastic waste annually that is hard to recycle, which is equivalent to more than 1 million full garbage bags, said Juan José Alava, research associate at the Ocean Pollution Research Unit at the University of British Columbia.
Canada must go beyond banning single-use plastics in order to reach its goal of zero plastic waste, he said.
“There is more to be done to combat plastic pollution than meets the eye,” said Alava.
Alava said he thinks the next step should be looking for solutions to try to eliminate plastic bottles and toxic chemicals that are used for the production and manufacture of plastics.
However, federal efforts aren’t enough, said Alava. Canadians should also try their best to reduce the use of plastics in their everyday life.
“It’s important that in addition to this — a national ban — every person, every household will also contribute a bit to make a difference by changing our behavioral preferences, our footprint in terms of plastics,” said Alava.
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Jiaying Zhao, an associate professor in the department of psychology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, said she thinks the single-use plastic ban is a good policy, but its efficacy depends on the enforcement and implementation of alternative materials.
“Just because we have a ban in place doesn’t mean that single-use plastics will be reduced,” said Zhao, who is also the Canada Research Chair in behavioural sustainability.
“If no businesses provide single-use plastics, then I think then obviously people are not going to use plastics like cups and straws and bags and containers,” said Zhao, adding that the effectiveness of the ban depends both on whether there is a consequence of not following it and the cost of switching to non-single-use plastic items.
Here is everything you need to know about Canada’s single-use plastic ban.
Single-use plastic checkout bags
Bags that are plastic manufactured items, and those that contain fabric but would break or tear easily, will be prohibited, according to the new policy’s technical guidelines.
These are the plastic bags that are usually given to customers for carrying purchased goods from businesses and those used to carry and deliver takeout food or drinks from a restaurant.
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However, plastic bags that are used to hold organic waste, garbage and recycled items are not prohibited under the new ban.
Plastic bags used to package fruit and vegetables, loose bulk food items such as candy, grains and nuts, meat, flowers or potted plants, clothing and baked goods are also allowed.
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The government requires fabric checkout bags that are used to replace single-use plastic bags to be durable, meaning they will not break or tear if used to carry 10 kilograms over a distance of 53 metres, 100 times, and be capable of being washed in the laundry machine.
Single-use plastic cutlery
Canada now bans single-use plastic forks, knives, spoons, sporks or chopsticks that contain polystyrene or polyethylene, or changes their physical properties after being run through a dishwasher 100 times.
Reusable plastic cutlery that is not made from polystyrene or polyethylene and can withstand being washed in a dishwasher 100 times is allowed.
Single-use plastic foodservice ware
Food containers and cups that are made entirely or in part from plastics are banned, as well as those that contain expanded polystyrene foam, extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride and a black plastic produced through the partial or incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons or an oxo-degradable plastic.
Canadians will also not be able to buy single-use plastic cups, plates and bowls after the prohibition on sale comes into force in December 2023.
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Plastic trays used for storing raw meat, fish and vegetables wrapped in plastic film, and pre-cooked food packaged in flexible plastic packaging are not affected by the ban.
The ban is not affecting containers used for the long-term storage of food such as peanut butter, apple sauce, olives or nuts.
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Cups or containers used by hospitals and care institutions for providing medication to patients are also not prohibited.
Paper and fibre-based coffee cups with a plastic lining that do not contain one of the prohibited plastic are acceptable.
Foodservice wares that are made from non-prohibited kinds of recyclable plastics, non-conventional or compostable plastics are also allowed.
Single-use plastic ring carriers
The manufacture and import of single-use plastic ring carriers that are designed to surround beverage containers to carry them together will be banned in June 2023.
Plastic ring carriers can be stretched out of shape and have typically been made from low-density polyethylene.
However, rigid plastic beverage holders are not prohibited as they do not have deformable rings or bands surrounding the beverage container.
The restrictions on the import and manufacture of ring carriers will come into effect in June 2023, with a full ban on sales a year later.
Single-use plastic stir sticks
All types of plastic stir sticks, which are designed to stir or mix beverages, are banned in Canada.
Stir sticks that are designed to prevent a beverage from spilling or dripping out of the lid of a cup are also banned.
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Single-use plastic straws
Plastic drinking straws that contain polystyrene or polyethylene or cannot withstand going through the dishwasher 100 times are prohibited under the regulation.
Plastic straws that are attached to or sold with juice boxes, bags or pouches are also prohibited.
Manufacture and import of single-use flexible straws, which are single-use plastic straws that are bendable and maintain their position at various angles, are allowed.
Flexible straws are considered more accessible than straight straws as they can bend and maintain their position.
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Canadians are allowed to offer single-use plastic flexible straws to others in a family or social situation.
Hospitals, medical facilities and other care institutions are allowed to offer plastic flexible straws to their patients or residents.
Under the new ban, selling plastic flexible straws is a bit more complicated, in which retailers are required to keep plastic flexible straws out of customers’ view, but they may sell a package of 20 or more single-use plastic flexible straws upon customers’ requests.
Retailers are allowed to sell beverage containers with a plastic flexible straw attached until June 20, 2024.
When requesting the purchase of plastic flexible straws from a retailer, Canadians do not need to provide any documentation in order to purchase them and stores are not required to ask customers if they have disability or accessibility needs.