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Two-thirds of Canadians want the federal government’s ban on plastics to include more than the six items now proposed, according to a new poll.
Last October, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced all plastic grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery and food containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics will be phased out by 2022.
This is part of Ottawa's larger plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
Abacus Data polled 1,500 people and found a majority want the list to include other commonly littered plastics products, such as hot and cold drink cups, cigarette filters, and all forms of polystyrene.
Oceana Canada, the charity that commissioned the survey, also doesn’t believe the ban goes far enough.
“Canada has an opportunity to lead in the fight to end the global plastic disaster,” said Oceana Canada plastic campaigner Ashley Wallis.
Wilkinson noted the proposed items in the ban cover “probably a fraction” of one per cent of the total plastic products Canadians use — simply a “drop in the bucket” for Oceana Canada.
About 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced annually in Canada, according to a 2019 study produced by Deloitte and Cheminfo Services Inc. for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
“There is public appetite for stronger federal action. Now is the time to meaningfully reduce plastic production and use, including banning more of the unnecessary and harmful single-use plastics that are choking our life-sustaining oceans,” Wallis said.
Abacus Data polled 1,500 people, a majority of whom want the list of banned plastics to include other commonly littered plastics products: hot and cold drink cups, cigarette filters, and all forms of polystyrene. #cdnpoli #pollution
While Wilkinson’s office didn’t comment on whether other items will be added to the ban, his director of communications Sabrina Kim wrote in a statement that Environment and Climate Change has a “comprehensive approach to eliminate plastic waste by 2030 that will keep plastics out of our oceans, rivers and parks.”
“Our plan also proposes improvements to recover and recycle plastic, and to establish recycled content requirements in products and packaging, which will drive investment in recycling infrastructure and spur innovation in technology and product design to extend the life of plastics,” Kim added.
The Oceana Canada survey found that 88 per cent of Canadians felt “surprised, angry, guilty and/or helpless” when they learned that only about nine per cent of Canada’s plastic waste is actually recycled — with the remainder ending up in landfills or incinerators — as found in the same government-funded study.
For that reason, Wallis believes recycling can’t be the only answer. “Our recycling systems can’t handle the volume or complexity of materials on the market today,” raising the incentive for more plastic bans.
Besides expanding the list, Oceana Canada is also urging the feds to have a science-based approach in deciding what plastics to ban.
Yasmine Ghania / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer