Plastics are seen being gathered for recycling at a depot in North Vancouver on June, 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Plastics ban coming after Environment Canada science review backs need

In 2016, 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage ended up as litter in Canada, report says

A national ban on many single-use plastics is on track for next year, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says, after a government report concluded Thursday that there is more than enough evidence proving plastic pollution is harmful.

“We will be moving towards a ban on harmful single-use plastics and we will be doing that in 2021,” said Wilkinson.

The federal Liberals promised last June they’d seek to ban plastic versions of number of products such as straws, take-out containers and grocery bags. The ban would happen under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which requires a scientific assessment of the problem first.

A draft version of that assessment was released Thursday. It will be open to public comment until April 1.

The report says that in 2016, 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage, the equivalent of about 2.3 billion single-use plastic water bottles, ended up as litter in Canada — on beaches, in parks, in lakes, and even, says the report, in the air.

Some of the litter is easily visible: pieces bigger than 5 mm are called “macroplastics.” But much of it is plastic most of us can’t easily see, known as ”microplastics” and “microfibres.” These are tiny remnants of plastic smaller than 5 mm, that come when larger pieces of plastic are broken apart. They are also shed off things like clothes made of synthetic fabric, fleece blankets, and tires.

The science looks at the impact of all types of plastics and concluded that evidence is clear macroplastics are hurting wildlife: Dead birds found with plastic in their intestines, whales that wash up on shore with stomachs filled with tonnes of plastic they ingested as they swam, including flip flops and nylon ropes.

In one case, a turtle was found emaciated and dying. When the plastic was removed from its digestive tract, the turtle recovered.

The evidence is less clear about the harmful impacts of people or wildlife ingesting microplastics, and the scientists recommended further study be undertaken. A new fund of $2.2 million over the next two years will fund research on microplastics.

Wilkinson said the finding on macroplastics is enough to proceed with the ban.

READ MORE: B.C. wants feedback on plans to ban, reduce and recycle plastics

He said the specific items that will be banned are still being worked out with scientists. A list will be released in the next few months, he said.

Plastic bags, straws, bottles and Styrofoam containers meant to be used once and discarded are all expected to be on the list but nothing has yet been confirmed.

Wilkinson said there will be time given to businesses who rely on those products to adapt but he is firm that the government is not going to wait several years.

“I think the Canadian public wants to see action quickly so certainly if there is a phase-in period, it won’t be an extensive one.”

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Weaving wool the Salish way

Learning the tricks of the trade at the Agassiz-Harrison Museum

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

GUEST COLUMN: Farmland is for growing food

Guest columnist Detmar Schwichtenberg advocates for keeping Teacup properties as farmland

UPDATE: High-risk sex offender living in Chilliwack has supervision order extended

Former mayor and residents wanted James Conway gone from residential neighbourhood two years ago

Court orders Hope-area First Nation council to accept long-contested memberships

Federal judge rules Peters Band Council acted “irrationally, unreasonably” in rejecting applications

VIDEO: Minister says consider coronavirus outbreak when planning for spring break

Foreign Affairs minister points to rash of new cases appearing in places like Italy and Iran

Donations pour in for family who lost father, son in fatal crash on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Alberta tourist dies after plunge from 70-metre cliff in Stanley Park

The 26-year-old hopped a fence at Prospect Point on fell to a walkway below, police said

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also led police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

New Westminster woman’s ‘out of character’ disappearance probed by police

She left without telling anyone, prompting investigation by Major Crimes Unit, police say

EDITORIAL: Fraser Health needs to be transparent to fight coronavirus panic

Fraser Health and other authorities are not helping by being vague in recent communications

Riverdale actress Lili Reinhart rescues puppy from Langley shelter

American actress named her adopted pup Milo

How clean is your favourite local restaurant or café?

Online inspection reports allow consumers to find health hazard of all food facilities in region

Most Read