As the first phase of the single-use plastic ban has come into effect, it’s crucial to recognize that provincial and municipal governments can create provincial laws or by-laws to support our zero-plastic waste goals further. For the next few days, we’ll uncover the different tactics provinces and cities across Canada have taken or will be taking soon.
Here are four tactics we’ve been seeing:
1) Expanding the list of items included in recycling and depot programs
2) Introducing extended producer responsibility (EPR)
3) Increased fees on shopping bags
4) Adding more items to the single-use plastic ban
First up on the west coast, the province of British Columbia is adding more single-use plastics to their blue bin and recycling depot programs. This is a massive step in the positive direction as it will help divert more single-use plastics from our communities, shorelines, and ecosystems. In addition, this reduces wish cycling and encourages better recycling rates. Some new items include plastic bags, chip bags, cutlery and straws, aluminum foil, and more!
Next, we’re seeing movement around the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) which is when we make producers responsible for collecting and recycling plastic that they produce into the world. In three provinces and territories, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Alberta, implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is being considered. Implementing ERP will encourage businesses to re-evaluate their products and find more eco-friendly alternatives. Ontario has been a leader in implementing the EPR as early as 2020 and will extend it to its Blue Box Program by 2025.
Something that already took effect in the province of British Columbia in January 2023 was the increased prices of paper and reusable bags from $0.15 and $1 to $0.25 and $2, respectively. This price increase is no surprise as the province gave citizens ample time to transition and adapt to the change away from plastic bags. The price increase is a reminder and incentive for individuals to remember to bring their plastic bag alternatives whenever they go shopping to avoid the accumulation of these bag purchases. The City of Calgary is to follow suit by 2024, and the Town of Banff is likely to follow in the same direction to help avoid the unintended consequences of over-purchasing.
Finally, with the single-use plastic ban, we’re also seeing the addition of more SUPs beyond the six included in the federal ban. Starting in March 2023, the City of Montreal will prohibit restaurants and other food establishments from selling and distributing eight plastic items, which include: plastic trays (except for meat and fish products), single-use plastic plates, utensils, containers, lids, cups, stir sticks and straws. This will support the acceleration of the transition to plastic-free and zero-waste alternatives.
We also want to recognize the Maritime provinces that introduced the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags more than two years before the federal plastic ban. In 2019, PEI became the first province to introduce this; by 2020, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia did too.
There is still plenty of opportunity to reduce and tackle plastics in Canada, but we should recognize that people in political power can support and push for quicker change.
Let’s raise awareness of plastic pollution! Share your pictures of plastic waste in your communities!