Plastic Pollution Call to Action
Environmental groups urge government to work faster and do more to end plastic pollution
Fifty groups call on Canada to lead the global effort, including a more comprehensive ban on harmful plastics and shifting to reuse.
Environmentalists from across Canada are calling on Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take immediate steps to curb plastic pollution in order to meet its commitment to zero plastic waste by 2030. Signed by 50 organizations, the statement urges the government to move quickly with measures beyond the proposed ban of some single-use plastics.
“Plastic contributes to climate change and causes disproportionate harm in communities living next to production and waste treatment facilities,” said Karen Wirsig, plastics program manager at Environmental Defence. “Canadians are well aware of the environmental crisis that plastic causes and know we can’t wait for industry to fix the problem. The federal government needs to act to eliminate all unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of the decade and make refillable and reusable packaging and containers more affordable and accessible across the country.”
Each year, more than four million tonnes of plastic is produced in Canada and 3.3 million tonnes of it is thrown away. Every day, some 8,000 tonnes end up in landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. Polling confirms that Canadians, who are among the top per capita users of plastic in the world, are overwhelmingly concerned about plastic pollution.
“To end the crisis of plastic in our oceans, Canada must produce and use less single-use plastic, year-over-year. Although the proposed ban on six single-use plastics is a critical first step in ending Canada’s contribution to the global plastic pollution crisis, the proposed regulations should be expanded to include more items and have an accelerated timeline,” said Oceana Canada’s campaign director, Kim Elmslie. “The regulations must not allow Canada to export banned plastics to other countries, and should never allow for one plastic item to be substituted for another.”
The groups underscore that banning six single-use plastics is not enough, on its own, to address the crisis.
“Domestic action must be matched by international leadership to tackle the global problem of plastic pollution,” said Lisa Gue, National Policy Manager with the David Suzuki Foundation. “Countries are beginning to discuss a new global plastics agreement, ahead of the UN Environment Assembly later this month, but so far Canada is sitting on the sidelines. We’re calling on the government to support a legally-binding global treaty that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, from production to use to waste.”
The groups are calling on the government to reject thermal treatment of waste— what industry calls ‘advanced recycling,’ which is unproven, expensive, polluting and requires the continued production and disposal of throwaway plastic.
“We’re not going to recycle our way out of this problem,” said Emily Alfred, Waste Campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “The government must reject the idea of ‘advanced recycling’ which mostly consists of burning plastic for energy or fuel. New rules should also require companies to change packaging and eliminate toxic additives so that anything that isn’t reduced or reused is recycled safely.”
The full statement including the full list of signatories is available here.