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

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

IIO called to Chilliwack after man goes into medical distress in RCMP cells

Male was arrested for assault at CGH, cleared by hospital, then had medical issue next morning

Chilliwack’s Waverly Seniors Village deemed a ‘high risk’ facility by Fraser Health

Residents speak out about staff shortages that are leading to serious safety concerns

Maggie and Tim: A residential school survivor and her son who died on Chilliwack’s streets – Part Two

A young man’s tragic death and his mother’s survival through hardship

Chilliwack wades into backyard chickens in urban areas

Permit came with several conditions and can be reconsidered by council

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Woman missing out of downtown Maple Ridge

Police seek public’s help locating Atefeh Jadidian

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

Exploding enrolment prompts opening of second TWU campus in Richmond

Langley’s faith-based Trinity Western University opens a second campus in Richmond

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

Most Read