OTTAWA — New statistics suggest Canadians are slowly reducing the use of plastic straws and grocery bags before a nationwide ban on those items takes effect next month.
The Government of Canada is looking to reduce indoor plastic pollution by the end of the decade, as negotiations for a formal plastics management treaty begin in Uruguay this week.
Canada is one of nearly three dozen countries pushing for an international deal that would end global plastic pollution by 2040. “Enough is enough,” Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a tweet.
Around 22 million tons of plastic end up where they shouldn’t every year, including in lakes, rivers and oceans around the world, the minister said. In Canada, approximately 29,000 tons of plastic waste, mostly packaging, ends up in the environment each year.
On the other hand, an additional 3.3 million tons of plastic waste ends up in landfills. Less than a tenth of the plastic Canadians throw away is recycled.
In a bid to reduce all plastic waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in 2019 that some single-use plastics would be banned by 2021, but the government took a year longer than expected to determine which items to ban.
The final rule was published in June, and as of December 20, it will no longer be legal in Canada to manufacture or import most plastic bags or straws, as well as stir sticks, lids, and take-out containers. A year later, the sale of these items will also be prohibited.
The manufacture and import of plastic rings to hold six beverage containers will be banned in June 2023; its sale will end a year later.
Before the ban, some Canadian retailers proactively moved away from single-use items. Grocery retailers have phased out plastic bags, and many restaurants have replaced plastic straws with paper straws.
A Statistics Canada household and environment survey conducted every two years found that between 2019 and 2021, the number of Canadians regularly using plastic straws decreased slightly, and the number of Canadians more regularly using reusable bags when shopping had increased.
In 2019, 23% of Canadians reported using at least one plastic straw per week, a number that dropped to 20% two years later. Manitoba is the only province bucking this trend, with 29% of respondents using at least one straw per week in 2021, up from 26% in 2019.
Quebec residents were the least used straws, with 16% reporting using them at least once a week in 2021, a nearly unchanged number from 2019.
Statistics Canada noted that in 2021, 97% of Canadians used their own reusable bags or containers when shopping for groceries, a slight increase from 96% in 2019. % in 2021.
In Quebec, more than two-thirds of people said they always use their own bags to shop, a slight increase from three in five in 2019.
Canada is consulting to develop national standards for plastic products to make it easier to recycle. The country’s low recycling rates are partly attributed to the fact that a wide variety of plastics are used, which is difficult for recycling facilities to manage.
Canada is one of the most wasteful countries in the world. World Bank data on municipal solid waste shows that, on average, each Canadian disposes of 706 kilograms of waste each year.
Among the G7 countries, that’s higher than anywhere except the United States, which sheds 812 kilograms per person each year. In Germany the average is 609 kilograms, in France 548 kilograms, in Italy 499 kilograms, in the United Kingdom 463 kilograms and in Japan 399 kilograms.
When considering industrial, electronic and commercial waste, Canada ranks first in the world, producing more than 36 tons of waste per person per year.
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