Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that his government aims to ban several environmentally harmful single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery and bags by early 2021 in an effort to reduce overall waste and protect the world’s oceans.
The announcement, which was made from the shore of a lake in a Quebec nature reserve, comes ahead a the fall federal election during which climate change is shaping up to be a top issue.
“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,” Trudeau said.
The move edges out an identical platform item announced by the New Democratic Party in January that promised an NDP government would drop plastics by 2022 — the party has yet to formally respond to the Liberal pledge.
If Trudeau’s government remains in power following the Oct. 23 federal election, his government would research what plastic items it should ban and follow the European Union in banning oxo-degradable plastics, such as grocery bags.
The Liberal prime minister added that “it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they’re manufacturing and putting out in the world”, in a move to put pressure on corporations to recycle.
The timeline of the ban will be based around consultations with scientists determining specifically what plastics to get rid of, what options are available for companies and how extra costs to small businesses could be mitigated.
Opposition and Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer said the government was “clutching at straws” with the plastics ban, criticizing the plan for its lack of detail and study on how it would impact consumers, jobs and businesses.
The Conservatives have yet to release their long-awaited comprehensive environmental platform for the election but have slammed the Trudeau administration for its policies, specifically the pollution-targeting carbon tax.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the some 33 million Canadians throw away more than 34 million bags every day — just over a bag per person — and that those bags can take 1,000 years to decay back into nature.
Though Canada has tried to maintain an international image of a leader in the fight against climate change, there have been some disruptions including a politically tense situation where Canadian garbage ended up in rotting in the Philippines.