Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada will ban some single-use plastics as early as 2021.
Items that have been identified as harmful to human health or to the environment will be phased out in the next two years, including water bottles, plastic bags and straws.
Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag, who is chair of the standing committee on environment and sustainable development, explained that the federal government is “not saying that plastics are bad, it’s how plastics are being disposed of.”
Aldag said that there are many opportunities to recycle or reuse plastics that aren’t being taken advantage of. A government-commissioned study recently found that less than 10 per cent of plastic used by Canadians is recycled properly — if trends continue, Canadians will be throwing $11 billion of plastic into the landfill in 2030.
The “energy footprint” of throwing plastics in the landfill, as well as “leakage into the environment, is where there’s a real issue,” said Aldag.
He pointed to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that states if the rate of plastics pollution continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
With the longest coastline in the world, Canada has a “unique responsibility — and opportunity — to lead in reducing plastic pollution,” read a press release Monday.
“You can’t go after all plastics,” Aldag told the Reporter. “They’re in our vehicles, furniture, carpet, our clothing.”
What the government can tackle are plastics that “can be deemed unnecessary,” he said, items such as “disposable plates and utensils, Styrofoam packaging, cups and lids and straws, stir sticks — [items] that get used for seconds or minutes and then will persist in the environment, or in landfills, for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
Back in his constituency of Cloverdale and Langley City, Aldag says residents and businesses will need to find viable alternatives to the plastics that are being phased out in the next two years.
In some ways, B.C. is better poised to tackle the transition than other provinces in Canada, he said. B.C., for instance, already has policies in place that require “makers of plastic to take responsibility for end-of-life” of their products.
“Our recycling rates are higher than many of the provinces and territories. We’re so far ahead of the rest of the country. British Columbians should be really proud of the work we’ve done already at the municipal and provincial level,” he said.
Now, it’s up to individuals to make a difference, too. Even if it’s as simple as bringing a reusable coffee cup to your local cafe, rather than taking a one-use coffee cup.
Aldag said the plastics issue is one that is often brought up when he’s out talking to his constituents in Surrey and Langley. “I look forward to hearing from [them], and getting their thoughts on this initial step.”
Next week, the standing committee on environment and sustainable development will be tabling a report with additional recommendations in the house.