Francesca Kerton has been working on ways to scale back her consumption of single-use plastics.

She’s made a habit out of carrying a set of reusable cutlery in her purse to avoid using single-use plastic cutlery when out and about.

And only in the near past, the Newfoundland and Labrador educator made the choice to bring small reusable bags on a visit to avoid using single-use plastic bags in retail stores, which have been banned in Newfoundland since October 2020.

That measure has had an impact on residents’ behaviours, and it’s one Ottawa intends on replicating across the country however it won’t occur overnight, experts say.

“Newfoundland introduced the single-use plastic ban for plastic bags a little bit while ago, and we’ve all form of got used to that and adapted,” said Kerton, a professor of chemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“It’s a bit like a social science experiment in that it just takes time to regulate … but eventually with communication and education when it comes to what profit you’re giving to the environment, people adjust.”

By the tip of 2022, Canadian firms will now not have the option to import or make plastic bags, cutlery, takeout containers, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws, barring just a few targeted exceptions to acknowledge specific cases.

The deadline was announced by the federal government on Monday in what Anthony Merante called “superb news” for the environment.

“A plastic bag, a plastic fork, a single-use straw … it only takes considered one of those plastic items to come across wildlife … to make that a lethal encounter for them,” said Merante, a plastics campaigner for Oceana Canada.

“All this stuff are very essential to begin banning since it only takes one to have a negative effect on the environment, and potentially a lethal effect on wildlife.”

Along with the year-end deadline, Ottawa is giving businesses until December 2023 to deplete their existing stocks, making the sale of those single-use plastics prohibited at the moment. The federal government may also ban the export of plastics in those six categories by the tip of 2025.

There are some limited exceptions for single-use plastic flexible straws to accommodate individuals with medical or accessibility reasons.

The ban on the manufacture and import of ring carriers and versatile straws packaged with beverage containers like juice boxes will come into force in June 2023, and the prohibition on the sale of those items will come into force in June 2024 resulting from the complexity related to retooling manufacturing lines for those products.

The federal government listed plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act last yr, which paved the way in which for regulations to ban some. It hopes to eliminate all plastic waste from ending up in landfills or as litter on beaches, in rivers, wetlands and forests by 2030.

Ottawa estimates over the subsequent decade, its ban will result in the elimination of greater than 1.3 million tonnes of hard-to-recycle plastic waste, and greater than 22,000 tonnes of plastic pollution – the equivalent of over 1,000,000 garbage bags filled with litter.

As much as 15 billion plastic bags are used every yr and roughly 16 million straws are used each day in Canada, the federal government said. Single-use plastics like those make up many of the plastic litter found on shorelines across Canada.

“We’ve gravitated towards carrier bags and things fabricated from plastics that were convenient for us to make use of, but because they’re created from a cloth that after it gets into the environment, it will possibly’t degrade, it will possibly’t break down, it causes numerous pollution and it causes numerous harm to animals within the environment,” said Kerton.

“Also they’re created from petroleum, and so where there’s depleting energy resources worldwide, if there’s alternatives that might be used and put aside that petroleum, that’s a great thing, too.”

Ottawa’s announcement on Monday included a series of deadlines to assist with the transition away from single-use plastics, a staggered approach that Kerton said is beneficial.

It took some time for Newfoundlanders to regulate to their latest realities around single-use plastic bags, she said, however it’s not the one region in Canada where residents have seen the reduction of single-use items in stores.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have already taken their very own motion against plastic bags, as have some cities, including Regina, Victoria and Montreal.

Some retailers also got ahead of the federal government’s announcement, with Sobeys eliminating single-use plastic bags at its checkout counters in 2020, and Walmart doing so this past April. Loblaw announced Monday that it would drop single-use plastic shopping bags from its stores by the tip of the primary quarter of 2023.

Several food outlets, like A&W, Tim Hortons and Starbucks, also replaced plastic straws with paper versions during the last several years as well.

While individual motion is very important, systemic change is what’s needed to see widespread reduction, Merante said.

“System changes are really the most important impact we are able to have in Canada in reducing single-use plastic waste today,” he said.

“One in all the massive things to notice is that that is just step one in that journey, and there are a lot of more items that will not be on this list that may very well be slated to in the longer term.”

Canadian food and beverage manufacturers are working on ways to scale back single-use plastic products, resembling food packaging, said Kathleen Sullivan, CEO at Food and Beverage Canada, an industry advocacy group.

A 2019 Environment and Climate Change Canada research study found 3.3 million tonnes of plastic was thrown out, almost half of it plastic packaging. Lower than one-tenth of that was recycled. Many of the plastic ended up in landfills, where it takes lots of of years to decompose.

With regards to food packaging, manufacturers are attempting to work out what materials they’ll use to be more sustainable, but ones that may also maintain the standard of the food, Sullivan said.

“You’ll be able to go some places now and also you’re going to purchase your strawberries in those cardboard carts … but you’re going to search out that the shelf lifetime of the strawberries is less, otherwise you’re going to have damage to the product, and so that you’ve got food waste. We’ve got to work out how one can balance these items,” she said.

“A whole lot of times when governments pass regulations, there’s this type of thought that the markets will respond and the markets will migrate, and it doesn’t all the time occur organically. Sometimes industry has to step in and really force those changes, and that’s something that we’re taking a have a look at now.”

Moreover, the challenges food and beverage manufacturers also face include how one can create a network of sustainable material suppliers, and a sturdy and consistent recycling and composting system, said Sullivan.

Ottawa is meaning to impose standards requiring a minimum amount of recycled content in single-use items to create a much bigger marketplace for plastic material from recycling plants. Canada’s domestic recycling industry could be very small, and the demand for recycled plastics could be very limited.

“Often these vary province by province, and even municipality by municipality, and we actually aren’t, as a rustic, going to get where we wish unless we begin to bring some consistency to the services that exist across the country,” Sullivan said.

With regards to creating latest sustainable products within the food industry, she hopes the federal and provincial governments find ways to support them through the method.

“Don’t stop the bans, don’t change the timelines, but let’s find ways to assist us within the work that I described since it is difficult.… Everyone’s combating where to begin; we’re all higher off if we attempt to work on these items together and move forward together.”

— with files from The Canadian Press


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