Plastic trash used to be a simple problem. Bundle it up, put it on a freighter, and ship it off to China. That worked really well until China stopped allowing plastic waste into the country. All of sudden, the countries producing all that trash had no idea what to do with it.
Some tried shipping it to other Asian countries, but that hasn’t worked out very well either. In May, the Philippines sent 69 containers of what is called illegally imported garbage back to Canada. What to do?
This week, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced his government is considering a ban on some single use plastics. Trudeau said the plan is inspired by a similar initiative proposed by the European parliament. Legislatures of the EU member states must vote on the measure before it takes effect, according to a report by The Guardian. The EU policy would affect a wide range of plastic products that have non-plastic alternatives from straws to earbuds starting in 2021.
Speaking from a nature preserve in Ontario, Trudeau said, “As early as 2021, Canada will ban harmful single-use plastics from coast to coast. To be honest, as a dad, it’s tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?”
“As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”
He said the specific items to be banned will be determined based on a science-based review, but the government is considering items such as water bottles, plastic bags, and straws. At the present time, less than 10% of all plastics used in Canada get recycled. Stopping the use of single use plastics will have a cost, of course. The EU estimates the tab could be as high as €695 million a year.
There are no estimates of what a similar program in Canada might cost or who would pay for it. Everybody wants to save the whales and sea turtles but not if it means raising the price of soft drinks and bottled water. Canada will hold national elections in 5 months and climate change and pollution are expected to be top campaign issues.
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