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Like many other industrialized nations around the world, Canada is also guilty of mismanaging their plastic waste. In fact, it is estimated that this North American country recycles less than 11% of their plastic waste each year. Similarly, when considering this nation’s harmful emission rate, Canada was found to produce 22 tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, which was higher than that of any other G20 member.
The Plastic Pollution Solution
Nationwide Plastic Ban
On June 10, 2019, the Government of Canada announced a series of steps that the nation would take in order to reduce plastic pollution. Of these steps included a nationwide ban of single-use plastic materials to be fully implemented by 2021. This plastic ban specifically targets grocery bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks, each of which have been directly implicated in perpetuating harmful effects on the environment and human health. An additional component of this single-use plastic ban could potentially require similar products to contain a minimum amount of recycled content or be capable of being repaired or recycled following their use.
Leading International Support Efforts
Canada’s announcement on June 10, 2019 is considered to be unique in its interest to support efforts around the world that are aimed at reducing plastic pollution. Herein, the Government of Canada plans to contribute $100 million to developing nations. This substantial donation will be primarily directed towards supporting innovative private-public partnerships that work towards reducing the accumulation of plastic waste on shorelines, preventing plastic waste from entering the oceans, and improving the current management of plastic resources.
In addition to their single-use plastic ban, Canada has also enforced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, which require companies that manufacture plastic products to adopt a “cradle-to-grave” practice for their products. To this end, these companies are responsible for managing the proper discarding and handling of all plastic products and packaging from their time of creation to their disposal. Additional components of the June 10 announcement include supporting community-led organizations, efforts aimed at reducing the presence of microbeads within freshwater and marine ecosystems, and reducing the generation of plastic waste from federal operations.
Canada’s Climate Emergency
In an effort to alleviate the concerns of many Canadians regarding climate change and its devastating effects, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, has recently introduced a federal carbon tax that will apply to certain provinces including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Yukon, and Nunavut. Under this initiative, all other provinces and territories will be responsible for independently managing their carbon pollution rates. By adding a tax to carbon goods and related services, Canadian companies that frequently perform greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensive activities will be discouraged from doing so while also being persuaded to discover alternative fuel sources. The organization Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates that by the year 2022, this carbon tax will remove up to 60 million tons of GHG emissions.
It is evident that the progressive Canadian government has taken significant steps to reduce its role in the pressing issue of global climate change. Despite their efforts, many parts of Canada remain resistant to these changes. For example, the provincial government of Alberta has recently filed a legal suit against the Canadian government’s recent federal carbon tax, in which Alberta argues that the capital city of Ottawa should not have the power to regulate GHG emissions in other provinces. Further efforts must therefore be made to educate the general Canadian population on the importance of reducing unnecessary plastic waste and GHG pollution for the greater good.
Sources and Further Reading