As we mark another Earth Day, it is increasingly clear that the escalating environmental crisis must be fought, not only with changes at home, but also by our government.
Multiple Canadian municipalities and provinces have implemented bans on single-use plastics, mainly against plastic bags. Now, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognizes that in order to combat this global issue, the solution must be nationwide.
The federal government aims to ban single-use plastics by the end of this year. The ban aims to reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans and damaging the sensitive marine ecosystem.
The government hopes to end the use of plastic straws, groceries bags, cutlery, stir sticks, six-pack rings, and takeout containers. These are the most common items being used only once before being thrown out.
Single-use plastics that will not be banned include non-grocery store bags, water bottles, food packaging, plastic cups and lids, and plastic masks. Canada’s ban targets plastic that is most damaging to the marine environment, most difficult to recycle, and for which there is already a sustainable alternative.
Taking action to stop single-use plastic production is crucial because plastic accounts for over 90 per cent of pollution worldwide. Each year, there are a shocking 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste entering our oceans worldwide. Studies have shown that at least 700 marine species worldwide have been severely affected by plastic pollution in the water. This includes 84 per cent of sea turtle species, 44 per cent of seabird species, and 43 per cent of all marine mammal species.
Not only is this plastic killing millions of marine animals and sea birds, it is also contaminating the seafood that we ingest.
Sadly, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
Eliminating single-use plastic is part of a bigger movement to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. The Canadian government aspires to invest in more sustainable solutions and improve our management of plastic waste.
By reducing the production of plastic, which is a petroleum-based product, we can also eliminate the emission of 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere annually and create over 42,000 jobs within the country in green initiatives. It is also illogical to throw away plastic when it has the potential to be re-used multiple times, so the plan also aims to recover and recycle more plastics. Currently, only 10 per cent of plastic in Canada is recycled.
Although plastic has many valuable applications, single-use items are not practical. A single plastic bag takes 20 years to fully decompose in the ocean, and it leaves damaging chemicals behind as it does so.
As for a plastic water bottle, it takes 450 years to become micro-plastics which are even easier for marine life to ingest.
The European Union, as well as many other nations, have implemented plastic bans in the past few years. Now finally, in 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau recognizes that plastic pollution is a problem that we cannot afford to ignore.
Cabrinha Clark is a Grade 11 student at Earl Marriott Secondary. Along with her sister, Miranda, she writes regularly about environmental issues for the Peace Arch News