Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his country will ban single-use plastics by 2021. Referring to the plastic pollution problem plaguing our planet, Trudeau reminded that we can no longer continue to ignore it.
Banning single-use plastics
In the announcement, Trudeau did not specifically mention which items will be banned. The government apparently plans on first determining which types of plastics are most harmful and then start banning them. Canada will set new standards and targets for businesses that manufacture plastic items or sell products packaged in plastic. The companies will also become responsible for recycling their plastic waste under the proposed ban.
According to Canadian authorities, the ban could eliminate about 2 million tons of carbon pollution. It is also expected to create close to 42,000 extra jobs and stimulate the economy. However, the plastic industry of Canada employs nearly 100,000 people and generates US$35 billion in sales. As such, the true effect of a plastic ban on the economy is something that requires a much detailed study.
Canada only recycles about 10 percent of the plastics it uses. If nothing is done about plastic consumption, Canadians will be throwing out US$11 billion worth of plastics through 2030. While Trudeau’s desire to cut back plastic waste has received support, some experts are unsure whether a ban is the right way to move forward. Morton Barlaz, an environmental engineer from North Carolina State University, believes that we should incentivize people to avoid using plastic.
“Nothing works like an incentive better than money. Instead of banning bags, we could start charging for them… Anything we’re talking about — a straw, a plastic bag, a piece of cutlery — it has a function consumers want. If we ban it, we need to think about the alternative and what that alternative does for people and the environment,” he said to PBS.
There is also a problem of price. Though the average Canadian will openly agree to a ban on plastics, they are less likely to bear the economic consequences of it. A study conducted by Dalhousie University found that close to 89 percent of Canadians do not want to pay 2.5 percent more for products as a result of a plastic ban.
In March this year, the European Union approved a law to ban single-use plastic items like cutlery, straws, and cotton swabs by the year 2021. Fishing gear manufacturers will be required to pay for any plastic nets retrieved from the seas.
“Under the new law, the EU will require member States to achieve a 90 percent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 and 77 percent by 2025. The law also requires plastic bottles to contain at least 30 percent recycled content by 2030 and 25 percent recycled content by 2025. These measures aim to bring about a rapid shift in consumer behavior and achieve environmental and economic benefits, including avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent,” according to SDG.
The new laws were passed after the EU discovered that plastics accounted for over 80 percent of marine litter. According to estimates, the world’s oceans are polluted with nearly 150 million tons of plastic, with up to 13 million tons being added every year. Some experts predict that there might be more plastic waste by weight than fish in the ocean by 2050.