Banning single-use plastics worldwide: What's in and what's out?

The following article first appeared in CTVNews , June 2019

Thirty-two countries have banned various single-use plastics, with many more provinces, states, and cities around the world imposing or considering bans of their own on everything from grocery bags to straws.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said “A real solution needs to be nationwide — 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.”  He added that plastics producers and companies using plastic packaging would be made responsible for handling the materials at the end of their life.

In Canada, Tofino and Ucluelet in B.C. have enacted bans on plastic bags and straws. Vancouver will impose one on straws, and has already completely banned styrofoam. Victoria has already banned plastic bags, along with Montreal.

IKEA Canada phased out all single-use plastic straws from its stores in May. McDonalds and Starbucks have said they intend to phase out the use of plastic straws, as have a growing number of airlines, hotels, theme parks, cruise ships and food service companies.

Last fall, according to the Break Free from Plastic Movement, a group of 250 major brands pledged to cut all plastic waste from single-use plastics in their operations by 2025. The pledge was signed by all three of the worst plastic polluters namely Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle.

A garbage-truck worth of plastic finds its way into the ocean every minute worldwide and that rate is growing, says the Canadian government. It is no surprise then, that the European Union voted in March to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton swabs, straws and stir sticks by 2021. Some jurisdictions in the Middle East and Africa are promoting oxo-degradable plastics as well or even making them mandatory.

Five of the world’s top economies, excluding the United States and Japan, signed the Oceans Plastics Charter, vowing that by 2040 all plastic produced in their countries would be reused, recycled or burned to produce energy.