Spring is here and Canadians are getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus in historic numbers. As we safely pour out of homes into our streets and parks, Canadians from coast to coast to coast are once again being greeted by our hardy springtime perennials — sunshine, pollen and … plastic pollution.

Plastics litter our beaches, parks, streets, shorelines and other places Canadians value. They collect in our oceans and waterways, harming marine life.

Canadians dispose of more than three million tonnes of plastic every year — the vast majority of which ends up in landfills and in the natural environment. That represents a waste of about $7.9 billion worth of plastic resins annually.

Only nine per cent of plastics are presently recycled. About 30,000 tonnes of plastic every single year finds its way directly on to our lands and into our waterways.

That’s a serious problem that requires serious leadership.

The harmful impacts of discarded plastic on nature and wildlife must be addressed. A science assessment published last October by the government of Canada found that plastic pollution, in both macroplastic and microplastic forms, is everywhere in the environment. Macroplastics are plastics larger than five millimetres in size, and are known to harm animals and their habitat. Concerns exist regarding the potential effects of microplastics — pieces of plastic smaller than five millimetres — on individual animals, the environment, and human health, although the data here is less clear and requires additional research.

That is why the government of Canada is taking swift action to ban harmful single-use plastics that can’t be recycled, or are difficult to recycle. We are also working to ensure producers will be responsible for preventing waste and promoting design that aids recycling and managing materials.

This isn’t about banning plastic, which will remain a useful part of our lives. It’s about responsibly managing plastic so it stops polluting our environment. By moving to a more circular economy to manage plastic waste, we can reduce 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, generate billions in revenue, and create approximately 42,000 jobs across the country by 2030.

On May 12, as the next necessary step in our ongoing process to eliminate single-use plastic waste from our environment, we added “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Listing manufactured plastic products under CEPA is required to legally regulate the cleanup we all recognize is so desperately needed.

This isn’t about banning plastic, which will remain a useful part of our lives, says @JonathanWNV. It’s about responsibly managing plastic so it stops polluting our environment. #Plastics #Waste #Canada #Federal Government

We’re also taking action to hold producers responsible for their plastic waste and developing recycled content standards. Plastics that can be easily recycled can and should continue to help our society, a fact recognized by many responsible industry leaders who are also taking action to address this issue. Developing and enforcing recycled content standards — just as banning single-use plastics — required listing under CEPA.

However, some in the plastics industry would rather litigate than work with government and other partners to correct long-standing practices and improve environmental outcomes. We saw this recently when some members of the plastics industry launched a lawsuit against government efforts to curb plastic pollution.

Certainly there is a history of some entrenched companies in other industries that have worked to maintain the status quo long after health and environmental science have clearly shown that a change in behaviour and practices is required. We saw it with lead in gasoline, with asbestos, with microbeads and even with carbon dioxide causing climate change.

These products and their manufacturers didn’t start out with the intent to cause harm. But over time, we clearly experienced that they could create harms, and governments had to act for the good of our health and of our natural environment — often in the face of deeply entrenched opposition from commercial interests.

There is broad public support behind our efforts to address plastic pollution, including, for example, the development of recycled content standards that will drive innovation and create jobs in a more circular economy. There is also significant support and constructive engagement on the part of thoughtful members of the plastics industry.

Enough is enough. Canadians expect action on an environmental issue that is so clearly prevalent in our daily lives.

Jonathan Wilkinson is Canada’s minister of environment and climate change and has served as the member of Parliament for North Vancouver since 2015.

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I'm old (72).

Up until about 35 years ago, I could buy soft drinks in glass bottles--we drank a LOT of club soda. Then some concern was raised about bottle exploding when they were dropped (duh). And gosh almighty, the perfect solution! PLASTIC bottles! Brand new spiffy product. Brand new wide-open market. No more hassles for bottle returns. Jimminy Cricket!

Many of us raised hell, but, you know, human beings are lazy, apathetic, and over-stressed. So that issue died. Except, I think, in one of the Maritime provinces (PEI?) which legislated FOR glass and banned plastic. Would that that had been a national movement.

And of course there was the howl of indignation several years ago when some grocery stores started charging for, or banning, plastic shopping bags. Like denialists of other issues, you would have thought a critical birthright was being taken away.

So, now, finally, it's time (more than time) for the federal government to stand up, and LEAD, in eliminating ALL unnecessary plastics. Any environmental consciousness/awareness/action group can provide detailed information on specific horrors, so this isn't a tough one.

I live in the North, and my husband was a master fish taxidermist, so one of my major issues is non-degradable plastic fishing line, and lures. Irresponsible and unconscionable fishers just chuck the stuff. So the fish get it. The LOONS get it. Other water birds, and water animals. There is no justification in the world for this. Please ensure this is included in the first launch of plastic bans. Please.

Thank-you, in advance, Minister Wilkinson

I'm of similar age. I also remember carrying bags of groceries home in paper bags, and the bottoms breaking out.
The objection to paying for new plastic bags was that for some time it was accompanied by stores' refusing to use one's own, saved plastic shopping bags, with the stores simply turning a profit on what used to be free. I've lived through times when a difference of 15 or 20 cents meant no marked-down apples: no fruit for a young and growing child. And it wasn't because we were buying luxury items or pre-prepared garbage called "snack foods," with or without sugar.
I used to send water to school in a glass bottle, because it was school policy to effectively restrict hydration. Then appeared a new restriction: avoiding the "danger to the children" (of bottles spontaneously breaking, presumably, on carpeted floors.
The plastics issue could be resolved neatly and completely, but governments deciding what's recycleable and what's not, and providing funding to municipalities to recycle what's recycleable.
While they're at it, they could ban plastics in cosmetic, personal care, laundry and cleaning products. They are variously referred to as micro-plastics or nano-plastics. Neither of them are safe for animals, including humans.
One thing individuals *could* do is refuse to buy those products if they contain plastics. There are brands that don't.
There is in fact a "plastics-free" certification to be had, just as there is for organic or vegan or kosher goods. The "plastics-free" certification doesn't cost money, and there's a phone app available to check one's usual products. See:

I'm glad that Minister Wilkinson is standing firm despite pressure from the plastic industry, but I question how appropriate it is for the N.O. to give government ministers a platform to tell us what a wonderful job they're doing. They do that already, with our tax dollars. Why should I pay a second time with my N.O. subscription?

I guess I need to stop. I have raised this issue with the N.O. before, and nothing has changed. N.O. gave a huge platform to the previous environmental minister, who allowed BP to drill off the coast of N.S. Now they're doing the same thing with the current minister, whose bill to phase out plastic lists only 5 plastic items that represent about 1% of all plastic garbage (or so I heard from Greenpeace).

Big friggin' whoop.

Everything the Liberal government has done up to this point is incremental and inadequate. There's no indication that that will change any time soon. Essential transformative change, whether it is phasing out the tar sands, ending fossil fuel subsidies, implementing Proportional Representation or a basic income, ends up in the round filing cabinet. (That is to say, the trash.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a newsletter to unsubscribe from.