Liberals’ 2021 single-use plastic ban includes grocery bags, takeout containers

The end is coming for plastic grocery bags, straws and cutlery as the federal government announced today what single-use plastics will be covered by a national ban coming into effect next year.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled the list of soon-to-be-banned items during an announcement  Wednesday morning at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

When compiling its list, the government said it considered plastics that are harmful to the environment, hard to recyclable and whether there were readily available alternatives.

The single-use plastics that will be banned include:

  • Grocery checkout bags,
  • Straws
  • Stir sticks
  • Six-pack rings
  • Plastic cutlery 
  • Food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics (like the black plastic packaging)

The ban, which follows some local bans on single-use plastics, is happening under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which required a scientific assessment of the problem first.

That report, released in January, said that in 2016, 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage, the equivalent of about 2.3 billion single-use plastic water bottles, ended up as litter in Canada — on beaches, in parks, in lakes and even in the air.

The report looked at the impact of all types of plastics and points to evidence that macroplastics — pieces bigger than 5 mm — are hurting wildlife. Dead birds were found with plastic in their intestines, whales had washed up on shore with stomachs full of plastic (including flip flops and nylon ropes) and in one case, an emaciated turtle was found with plastic in its digestive tract, notes the study.

The evidence was less clear about the harmful impacts for people and wildlife of ingesting microplastics, and the scientists recommended further study. 

At the time, Wilkinson said the evidence on the effect of macroplastics was enough to go ahead with the ban.

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