Editorial: Cleaning up our act

We should have banned single-use plastics long ago

Ever wonder how many plastics bags we use every year?

According to the Canadian government, the number is 15 billion. That’s about 400 bags for every woman, man and child in the country. Every year.

That’s in addition to the 57 million plastic straws we use every day. Those numbers make plastic bottle waste pale in comparison. Canadians only throw away five billion of those a year – that’s only 136 a year for each of us.

The point of throwing all these stats out there is to make the point that we have to do something about single-use plastics, which the federal government is promising to work on banning by 2021. Still, even with those horrendous stats, there are many protesting the concept of eliminating single-use plastics.

Plastics are incredibly useful materials, and they’ve worked their way into every facet of our life. They’ve also worked their way into every facet of our environment, which is why we have to stop throwing them away.

To be clear, no one is talking about banning all plastics – some uses are irreplaceable. But those plastic bags, straws and bottles are easily replaced: cloth bags, metal or papers straws and metal or glass drink containers.

Nor is this about climate change. Well, it is, but it’s also just about doing the right thing, and not continue to stupidly destroy our environment for the sake of convenience.

We’ve seen the photos of seabird carcasses, their gullets choked with plastics. We’ve seen the Great Garbage Patches in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans made up mostly of our discarded plastics. And that’s not even considering the problem of microplastics; plastics breaking down into tinier and tinier pieces.

If a patch of floating plastic trash three times the size of France isn’t enough to convince people that waste plastic is a problem, what will?

It’s one of those times where those we elect to govern our country have to take a deep breath, ignore industry lobbyists and tell their constituents that though it’s unpopular, it’s the right think to do for the future.

Banning those flimsy bags isn’t going to solve the world’s problems with plastic in the environment – that is going to take hundreds of years to clean up – but it is a first step, and considering the amount of waste they add up to, it’s a big step.

– Black Press Media

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