Canada plans to ban all single-use plastic products such as bags, straws, cutlery, and plates by 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.
The nationwide law aims to curb the 3 million tons of plastics waste that Canadians discard every year — of which less than 10 percent is recycled, according to government figures.
“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” Trudeau said. “We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy.”
An estimated one-third of all plastic products used in Canada are for single-use. Nearly 57 million single-use straws, for example, are used every day and 15 billion plastic bags are used annually. The final list of specific products that will be included in the ban will be determined by a scientific assessment, which is already underway, and will be announced at a later date, the government said.
The law — known as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act — also focuses specifically on protecting Canada’s vast coastlines. The government estimates that 640,000 tons of discarded plastics end up in Canadian oceans, which injures or kills hundreds of thousands of animals.
“We’ve all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales, and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans,” Catherine McKenna, the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said in a statement.
The country’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, added that plastic pollution in the ocean is “a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore.”
Companies will also be held more responsible for their plastic waste under the law’s Extended Producer Responsibility programs, which the government said it will develop in collaboration with Canada’s provincial authorities and industry groups.
“Moving forward on a national level will obligate manufacturers to think differently about what products they use,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Monday at the Gault Nature Reserve in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec. “Businesses will understand that if they are also responsible for the recycling of the materials they are putting in their products, they will think about the circular economy and the consequences of the choices they make.”
Canada also plans to invest more in private businesses working to reduce plastic waste. Under the plan so far, the government has provided $10 million to 18 small-to-medium sized companies.
Monday’s announcements come just over a year since Canada introduced the Ocean Plastics Charter at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. The Charter outlined a plan to reduce plastic waste around the world through increased funding in waste management systems in developing countries and private-public partnerships.
At the end of the summit, the Charter was endorsed by all the G7 nations expect two: Japan and the U.S.
“We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come,” Trudeau added on Monday.