Leaving the US even farther behind in policy designed to help the environment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021.
Specific items included in the ban will be plastic straws, cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks. Other items will be added once the government completes a science-based review.
Trudeau says the inspiration came from the European Union vote to impose a ban on single-use plastics in March. If EU states vote in favor of the measure passed by the European Parliament a ban against a range of plastic products will go into effect starting in 2021.
“Many other countries are doing that and Canada will be one of them,” Trudeau said.
Efforts by the EU and Canada are in an attempt to limit pollution of plastics in waterways, fields, and oceans. Less than 10% of plastic used in Canada each year gets recycled. Nearly 3 million tonnes of plastic waste is thrown away each year just from Canada, with more than 34 million plastic bags being thrown away every day.
Plastic production has skyrocketed since the 1950s, when the world’s population produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. In 2016 the number had reached 320 million tons of plastic, a number set to double by 2034. Plastic pollution is especially persistent in oceans and beaches all over the world, with estimates stating there may be 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the ocean. Plastic makes up anywhere from 60 to 90% of all marine debris studied.
“As parents we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles,” Trudeau said. “That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”
The decision comes shortly before Canadian’s next general election, which will be this autumn. Climate change is expected to be a top concern during the general election.
China stopped accepting plastic waste last year. Since then many countries, including members of the EU and Canada, have been at a loss for where to send their plastic, resulting in new policy proposals to try and reduce plastic waste.