The Liberal government is on the right track to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans, according to a non-profit conservation group.
Ocean Legacy Foundation President Chloe Dubois says the government’s newly released assessment of the harm to animals and marine environments paints an accurate picture.
“We found a turtle that had managed to find its way into a plastic water bottle through a crack in the side, entanglement issues with whales, [and] rings choked around seals necks,” she says, adding about one-third of plastics produced in Canada are single-use.
“This is resulting in about 3.3-million tonnes of plastic waste a year. And out of all of that plastic produced in Canada, 86 per cent right now is estimated to be landing in our landfills, going to incerations, and leaking into our natural environment,” she says. “15-billion plastic bags, 57-million straws are used in Canada every single day. But really, they’re about half of what we’re finding in the ocean. The other half is derelict fishing gear and that gets a lot less attention.”
Dubois explains B.C. is somewhat of an exception for the country’s recycling capacity since, there are many large recyclers able to process the waste locally.
“There are new initiatives now to start to manage these plastics, to create new regulations, new policies, this is why the scientific assessment was created was essentially to give scientific backing that macro and microplastics in the natural environments do cause harmful impacts. This is the substance we need to move forward,” she says.
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says a national ban on single-use plastics is still on track for next year. The Liberal government is promising to regulate the manufacturer’s role in recycling more strictly by 2021.
Meantime, Carol Patterson, national vice-president at Restaurants Canada, says the industry needs a reasonable timeline to bring in alternatives that aren’t just as bad for the environment as the plastic products they are replacing.
She says if the timeline is too aggressive, it will also drive up the cost of any alternatives as an entire industry looks to transition at the same time.
In Vancouver, a ban on plastic and compostable plastic straws goes into effect April 22, but vendors will still have to provide bendable straws, when asked for, to meet accessibility requirements. Bubble tea businesses have been given a one-year exemption to the straw ban. A ban on styrofoam ban started at the beginning of the year.