Ottawa pushing ahead with plan to ban single-use plastics by end of 2021

The federal government is moving to fulfil a key promise to ban single-use plastics by the end of 2021.

But the move comes as Canadians increasingly turn to plastic packaging out of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and is raising questions about the potential effects on a struggling Alberta.

“We are living in extraordinary times,” said Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson as he announced the plan to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, stir sticks, six-pack rings, utensils, straws and some food ware made of hard-to-recycle plastics.

Wilkinson announced details of the plan in a press conference on Wednesday, saying the ban will layout regulations by the end of next year as the government had pledged to do last year before the start of the federal election campaign.

He noted that the coronavirus pandemic and increased use of plastics throughout it was among the considerations made by the government in preparing the list of six items to be banned, and that many of the items targeted by the ban have readily available, affordable alternatives.

“Canadians expect their governments to be able to address the COVID issue and other challenges at the same time,” he said.

“The problem is getting worse. Action is needed to keep plastic out of our environment.”

Wilkinson said Canadians only recycle roughly nine per cent of the plastics used in the country each year and that while plastics can be useful, those being used must be recyclable.

“Plastics are very useful. We all use them,” he added.

“We need to make sure we’re not dumping them.”

The move is one part of what Wilkinson described as a “comprehensive plan” aimed at getting plastic producers to take more responsibility for collecting and recycling their products.

It will also lay out new standards for things like the amount of recycled products that will need to be used in plastics going forward, though the details of that will be created through discussions with industry and stakeholders that are ongoing.

Wilkinson would not say when those rules could come into effect, noting many of the conversations require cooperation with the provinces.

“I would certainly like to get this done within the next 12 to 34 months,” he said.

More to come.

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