Canada is banning the manufacture and import of single-use plastics by the end of the year, the government announced on Monday, in a major effort to combat plastic waste and address climate change.
The ban will cover items like checkout bags, cutlery, straws, and food-service ware made from or containing plastics that are hard to recycle, with a few exceptions for medical reasons. It will come into effect in December 2022, and the sale of those items will be prohibited as of December 2023 to provide businesses in Canada with enough time to transition and to deplete existing stocks, the government said.
Single-use plastics make up most of the plastic waste found on the shorelines across Canada. Up to 15 billion plastic checkout bags are used each year and approximately 16 million straws are used every day, according to government data.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who vowed to phase out plastics in 2019, said this week’s ban will eliminate more than 1.3 million tons of plastic waste over the next decade — the equivalent to one million garbage bags of trash.
“We promised to ban harmful single-use plastics, and we’re keeping that promise,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Monday.
Canada will also prohibit the export of those plastics by the end of 2025 to address international plastic pollution.
“By the end of the year, you won’t be able to manufacture or import these harmful plastics,” said Steven Guilbeault, the minister of environment and climate change. “After that, businesses will begin offering the sustainable solutions Canadians want, whether that’s paper straws or reusable bags.”
“With these new regulations, we’re taking a historic step forward in reducing plastic pollution, and keeping our communities and the places we love clean,” Guilbeault said.
Canada’s effort comes as countries across the world begin to impose bans to combat the problem of plastics, which are made from petroleum and can take hundreds of years to decompose.
The United States is the world’s largest contributor of plastic waste, according to a 2021 congressionally mandated report. This month, the Interior Department said it will phase out the sale of single-use plastic products in national parks and other public lands by 2032.
Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, said in a statement that Canada’s ban is a critical step forward but “we still aren’t even at the starting line.”
“The government needs to shift into high gear by expanding the ban list and cutting overall plastic production,” King said. “Relying on recycling for the other 95% is a denial of the scope of the crisis.”