Trudeau Says Canada Will Ban Single-Use Plastics as Early as 2021

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The prime minister also mentioned holding companies responsible for the packaging waste they create.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just announced that Canada will follow in the European Union's footsteps and ban single-use plastics as early as 2021. While the list of items to be banned has yet to be finalized, it will likely include plastic shopping bags, straws, disposable cutlery, cotton swabs with plastic sticks, drink stirrers, and takeout food containers made of expanded polystyrene (similar to Styrofoam).

CBC reports that "Trudeau said the government will research what items it should ban, and they'll follow the model chosen by the European Union, which voted in March to also ban products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags." Apparently he has also "revealed intentions" to make companies take responsibility for the plastic waste generated by their products.

This is welcome news for a country with pathetic recycling rates. A 2013 OECD study put Canada's recycling rate around 11 percent, which is slightly better than the global average, but still abysmal when you consider how much isn't getting recycled. Much of it gets lost in the natural environment, resulting in an estimated 1 million birds and over 10,000 sea mammals being injured or killed annually.

It's a smart move for Trudeau, who's approaching an election this fall and needs to brush up his environmental credibility after Canada's poor press following the recent shipping container debacle with the Philippines. (I'm not even going to talk about his controversial pipeline purchase.) The 69 waste-filled containers are now on route back to Canada after sitting in a Philippine port for five years. The government is footing the $1.14-million bill, as the company that originally shipped it no longer exists.

Canada has learned the hard way that off-shoring garbage is no longer a quiet, underhanded businesses, and that smaller, less well-off nations are standing up for themselves. It should be up to each country to deal with its own waste, and turning off the tap at the source is definitely the smartest way to approach it.