Photo credit: A Davey
2019 was a big year in the battle against single-use plastic. There was a movement on the provincial and local level to eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags and the introduction of a national plastic waste strategy.
According to the 2017 UN Oceans Conference, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute. In Nova Scotia, plastic accounts for 21 per cent of our waste (Divert NS, 2017).
"A report done earlier this year by consulting firms Deloitte and ChemInfo Services, and commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, found that in 2016, only nine per cent of plastic waste was recycled in Canada and 87 per cent ended up in landfills." - Source: CBC News, June 10, 2019
All that plastic has lasting impacts on our health, the environment and marine life. We’re thankful to everyone who made their voice heard by signing petitions, making phone calls and writing emails.
Here's what's happening at the local, provincial and national level to combat the plastic problem in Canada.
Canada is taking steps to address our plastic waste.
On June 10, 2019, the Federal Government announced it will ban single-use plastics and introduce extended producer responsibility, which makes manufacturers responsible for the products they make.
The Federal announcement lacks details, and implementation could take two years or longer. However, a scientific assessment of plastic in the environment is already underway.
Canada is considering banning plastic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Doing so would classify plastic as a toxin and regulate it as such. While we tend not to think of plastic as a toxin, science is revealing the long-term impacts of micro-plastics on wildlife, the environment and on human health.
Reducing plastic use in Canada, and recycling the plastic we do use, are critical steps in addressing this problem. Moving forward, it’s key that the Federal Government work with provinces and municipalities while resisting any efforts from other levels of government or the plastics industry to weaken regulations.
Nova Scotia is banning plastic bags.
On October 30, 2019, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed legislation to ban all single-use plastic bags. The ban will come into effect in one year. Banning plastic bags is a step in reducing our use of plastic and preventing contamination of our water, soil and food.
According to a 2017 waste audit by Divert NS, plastic accounts for 21 per cent of our waste in Nova Scotia, with thin film plastic bags accounting for four per cent of our plastic waste. But there are many other film plastics used by consumers and the commercial and industrial sectors for which we do not have viable alternatives, and for which current recycling markets are very weak.
There’s still work to be done, but Nova Scotia has taken a positive step to reduce single-use plastics.
Halifax council voted YES to single-use item reduction strategy
On January 15, 2019, Halifax Regional Council voted yes to a single-use item reduction strategy. It includes a motion to collaborate with the ten largest municipalities in Nova Scotia and to draft a bylaw for council's consideration as soon as possible to eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags. Other Canadian cities such as Montreal and Victoria have implemented plastic bag bans.
Banning plastic bags and other single-use plastics is just one part of the solution. Comprehensive action should be considered. For example, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) would make manufacturers responsible for the lifetime of the products they produce. EPR requires companies to take care of their share of the plastic waste problem, taking some of the pressure off of the consumer by making it easier to avoid plastics such as the baskets, bags, and wrapping in which many goods are sold.
EPR would require companies making fishing gear to take more responsibility, too. Along with education and stricter enforcement, EPR for fishing gear will be the most effective way to reduce the loss of fishing gear, such as rope and traps.
We’re thankful to our members for contributing to these changes by making their voices heard by signing petitions, making phone calls and sending emails. Canadians have clearly expressed their concern about plastic pollution.
The Ecology Action Centre first got its start as an initiative to increase recycling in Halifax nearly 50 years ago. Thanks for helping us continue our legacy. We can’t wait to see what we can achieve in the coming year.