Preserving the Environment

Canada Just Announced a Ban on Single-Use Plastics. That’s a Big Deal for Our Oceans.

June 10, 2019
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Canada Just Announced a Ban on Single-Use Plastics. That’s a Big Deal for Our Oceans.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a ban on single-use plastic items. Photo by Dave Chan/Getty Images
Experts estimate that humans add 8 million tons of plastic waste to our planet’s oceans each year. Canada’s new ban on single-use plastic items will help put an end to that.

On Monday morning, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will move to implement a federal ban on single-use plastic items within the next two years.

“We need to cover all of Canada with this decision — and that’s why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau’s office did not immediately provide details on which specific single-use plastics might be prohibited under the ban. CBC News, citing a governmental source, reported that items such as “cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates and balloon sticks” might become illegal under the new federal law.   

Canada’s announcement comes just a few months after the European Union moved to implement a similar ban on single-use plastics. Frans Timmerman, an EU official who championed the passing of the plan through the continental parliament, celebrated its passing as a major step toward saving our planet’s oceans.

“Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas,” Timmerman said. “We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”

Experts estimate that as much as 8 million tons of plastic waste find their way to our oceans each year. That waste kills an estimated 100 million animals annually, imperiling entire ocean ecosystems. According to Ocean Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, plastic waste has been found inside of 60 percent of seabirds and 100 percent of sea turtles who mistook the pollution as a source of food.

Many of the sea creatures who don’t die from the plastic they ingest experience extreme pain and distress. One viral video with millions of views shows a marine biologist struggling for eight minutes to dislodge a plastic straw stuck inside the nostril of a sea turtle, which writhes in agony and bleeds profusely.

By themselves, the Canadian and EU bans won’t be the solution that saves millions of marine animal lives from a potentially excruciating death due to plastic ingestion. However, the proposed restrictions represent a meaningful step forward — and all other nations should take note. Only through cooperation on a global scale can humankind stop millions more tons of plastic waste from finding its way to our water. 

Whether the United States’ leaders will follow suit on the federal level remains to be seen, though some of our nation’s cities and states have placed limited bans on specific items like plastic bags and straws.

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