In case you haven’t heard yet, the Canadian government has called for a ban of single-use plastic products, taking effect as early as 2021. With recent rhetoric, especially on social media, surrounding the topic of single-use plastics we couldn’t be more excited that such a large decision is coming from the governmental level.
Why Did the Government Decide to Ban Single-Use Plastics?
Over the past few years, pressure on the Canadian government has been steadily increasing to ban single-use plastics. Many other nations have called for bans on specific single-use items (plastic bags, plastic swabs, plastic straws), so Canadian citizens have been asking why our government was slow to respond and implement change. In addition to the consumers voice, the pressures from other countries, the conversations happening online, as well as the poor recycling situation in Canada have all contributed to the Trudeau government’s decision to implement the ban. Statistics predict that by 2030, Canadians will throw away an estimated $11 billion worth of plastic materials each year. This is definitely a problem we cannot ignore.
Why are Single-Use Plastics So Bad?
Plastic is used in a vast assortment of products – some that are extremely helpful and have created life changing innovations, as well as others that have been created solely for convenience. The biggest issue, and that which Canada is banning, is in single-use plastics. These are the plastic items that are used only once and then thrown away - examples include plastic straws, stir sticks, bags, cutlery, plates, etc. The reason these items are wreaking havoc on our environment is because the type of plastic they are made of cannot be recycled. While plastic was once a life changing invention, we are now learning that it is impossible to get rid of. Items such as straws, coffee cups and bags last for centuries and when they do break down, it's only into smaller plastic fibers. In other words, they're used for minutes and last an eternity.
Outside of taking up space in landfills or contaminating potential plastic recycling, these plastics make their way into our precious environments. As the plastics travel around the world in our waterways, they affect the animals - plastic straws and toothpicks have been found impaling sea turtles; plastic bags have been found in the stomachs of dead whales; plastic beer can rings found choking seals – the list goes on.
While the visible plastics litter our oceans, beaches and shorelines, these eventually break down into microplastics. Microplastics are extremely harmful for the environment and for us. Over time the plastic breaks down into minuscule pieces that find their way into our sea salt and food. The problem doesn’t just extend to the sea, our air is contaminated as well. Scientists recorded microplastic particles raining down on the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France earlier this year. This is extremely harmful to our health, not the mention the health of the planet. To put it into perspective: microfibres and plastics are often less than 300 microns in size while the average human hair is around 70 microns!
Single-Use Plastics vs. Recyclable Plastics
Single-Use Plastics encompass all plastic items that are used once and cannot be recycled. There are many types of plastic that can be recycled and although this might seem like a great option, the shocking fact is very little of our plastic actually gets recycled. In fact - less than 10% of plastic used in Canada gets recycled! Many of us are under the impression that the curbside recycling programs available to us are part of government measures to minimize landfill waste. Sadly, this is more a guise than a solution. Canada has been shipping their plastic waste to developing nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and China for years. This seemingly easy way to get rid of the problem has come to an end. These countries have had enough and in recent months have sent those ships back. Canada now has no choice but to deal with its own waste.
We are thrilled with the Canadian government's decision to ban single-use plastics. We hope this will help create awareness around the different types of plastics, force companies to choose alternatives, and reduce the impact of plastics on the environment. We're hoping (and possibly sending a few letters to the government) that plastic disposable razors will be on this list.
Making the decision to use less plastic in our daily lives is something we should all be doing – whether it be single-use or recyclable plastic. We need to remember these alarming stats and make better choices. For us, 2021 can’t come soon enough!