This week the Liberal government announced it will ban some single-use plastic items in an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, but only a limited number of products are subject to the ban and some of the bans don’t come into effect until 2025.
The six categories of single-use plastics that are banned account for about three percent of the plastic waste generated annually in Canada, and while the list is short, not everything on it is completely banned.
For example, some plastic straws are prohibited but there are exceptions that only restrict others.
CBC News took a look at the regulations to see what is banned and when, how the policy announced this week will affect the drive to reduce plastics globally, and what was left off the banned list.
We also submitted a list of questions to Environment Canada, including some that were submitted by readers to the Ask CBC team. Some of Environment Canada’s answers to those questions can be found below.
What products are being banned by these new regulations?
There are six categories of single-use plastic products that are prohibited, including:
- Payment bags.
- Takeout utensils with hard-to-recycle plastics.
- Ring holders for plastic and aluminum cans.
- Stir the sticks.
Why are disposable plastic beverage lids not on the list?
While plastic cup lids are one of the main items found in shoreline cleanups, the federal government said it decided on all six product categories for several reasons: They are found in the environment during cleanups They pose a threat to wildlife, are difficult to recycle, and can be replaced with alternatives.
“With respect to plastic lids used for disposable coffee cups in particular, limited alternatives to this item were identified as available at this time,” the government said in a statement.
The federal government said it continues to monitor the data and evidence and will decide whether other single-use plastic products can and should be banned in the future.
Will this make much of a dent in Canada’s plastic waste?
Not a big one.
According to environmental groups like Greenpeace Canada, the six product categories only account for about five percent of the total amount of plastic waste Canada generates in a year, based on 2019 data.
The federal government estimate is even lower. In the regulation details published on Wednesday, estimated about three percent of the plastic waste created using data from 2019, or about 150,000 tons of plastic waste.
When do the bans go into effect?
The new rules will prohibit most items on the list from being manufactured and imported for sale in Canada before December 20, 2022. After that date, products can still be sold in the country for another year.
Plastic ring bearers, like those used to hold a six-pack of cans, get an additional six months grace. They can continue to be imported and manufactured for sale in Canada until June 20, 2023, and are not prohibited from sale until June 20, 2024.
If the federal government wants to ban plastics, why give such a long deadline to ban exports?
CBC News raised this question with the federal government and was told that after consultation with the industry it was decided that a 42-month phase-out period would comply with Canada’s international commitments and minimize harm to the industry.
“A phase-out allows Canadian businesses to minimize disruption to their operations, while transitioning out of the market for prohibited items in line with global market and regulatory trends,” the government said in a statement.
Does that mean that after December 20, 2025 no prohibited products will be shipped through Canada?
Not quite. The new rules will continue to allow banned plastic products made in another country to be shipped through Canada to a third country without restrictions.
CBC News asked the federal government why this was the case if the goal is to eliminate plastics from the environment and was told that Canada’s participation in the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Article 11.8 prohibits Canada from applying technical regulations to the goods in transit.
I thought plastic straws were banned, but aren’t they?
While most single-use plastic straws are prohibited, flexible or bendable straws are not, although they are restricted.
Retail stores may sell flexible straws in a pack of 20 plus, but the pack cannot be displayed where a customer can see it without the help of a store associate.
Flexible straws can also continue to be sold from business to business and, for a limited time, can also be sold packaged with a beverage container, provided that the packaging was done by the company that manufactured the beverage, just as when sold with juice. boxes
Juice box straws can only be sold until June 20, 2024, before they too fall under a ban.
The decision was made not to ban flexible straws because they are still useful and necessary for people with physical disabilities or those cared for in a medical or long-term care facility.
Will Canadian companies be able to continue manufacturing these items for export?
To “allow the industry to adapt to change,” the federal government said it would allow the industry to make plastics until Dec. 20, 2025. Exporters must keep detailed records of who buys their products to comply with the rules.
Checkout bags are often used more than once by consumers who reuse them. Why are they banned, but one-use bin bags aren’t?
CBC News asked the federal government this question and was told that “reusing an item for a single additional use does not make the item reusable by definition.”
According to the federal government definition: “A reusable item is designed and intended to be used multiple times, for the same use, without losing its original functionality. Using single-use plastic bags a second time as a garbage bag or tote bag.” of lunch does not mean that it is reusable”.
The federal government said that any benefit gained from consumers reusing payment bags is offset by the environmental damage caused by the product itself, noting that “16,971 units were collected from Canadian shorelines in 2021 through the Great Cleanup.” of the Canadian Coast”.
In contrast, the government said it is not aware of data showing the same problem with garbage bags. The government said the lack of an alternative to plastic garbage bags is also a factor.
Will single-use dog waste bags be banned as well?
The federal government said it’s not banning single-use pet waste bags because regulations have been drawn up to ban “bags designed to carry products purchased from a business.”
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