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Phase One of Canada’s Single-Use Plastic Ban: Facts & Alternatives

The first phase of Canada’s Single-Use Plastic Ban includes checkout bags, cutlery, takeout items, plastic aluminum can ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws. However, the six items being banned only account for about 3% of the total amount of plastic waste created in Canada. Nevertheless, this first phase is a step in the right direction, although Canada’s single-use plastic ban can be more aggressive with shorter timelines and more single-use plastic items.

Have you thought about what you will do or use as alternatives as these items slowly phase out? We’ll outline the six items in the first phase of the ban and the other options or ways we can adapt and make this an easy transition. 

Checkout Bags 

Fifteen billion plastic bags are used every year in Canada, and these same plastic bags are also one of the significant sources of plastic found on our shorelines. Bringing your reusable bags is not something new to the citizens of Canada. In a survey conducted in 2019, 96% of Canadians shared that they bring their bags to grocery stores, but only 43% of them shared that they always do. There are many alternatives to plastic checkout bags, such as cotton, paper, polypropylene and polyethylene, and we collectively need to work towards bringing bag alternatives when we go shopping. 

Stir Sticks 

Stir sticks have become a memento for several individuals, restaurants and bars across Canada but will no longer be used. Instead, you may need to resort to bamboo or wooden sticks or stainless steel cutlery to stir your drinks in the future.

Plastic Aluminum Can Ring Carriers

Can rings will soon become an idea of the past as large to small companies phase out plastic can rings when packing beverages. Some large corporations have already committed to transitioning to fully recyclable and sustainably sourced cardboard-wrap carriers in 2022. Other innovative companies are exploring other alternatives like surplus barley straw packaging. 

Takeout Items

Plastic takeout items are used in many restaurants across the country, and we do not doubt this will be a difficult switch and transition for restaurants and venues. However, with the support of reusable takeout container services in Canada like Suppli, Reusables, Friendlier and Retournzy, we can work towards mitigating the amount of plastic waste being produced in the food industry. These companies have introduced programs that allow you to enjoy plastic-free packaging takeout and participate in the circular economy. 

Cutlery

4.5 billion pieces of plastic cutlery were sold in 2019 in Canada. Instead of missing plastic cutlery, there are a few best practices and alternatives like 1) choosing not to add any plastic cutlery to your order when ordering in, 2) choosing recycled, biodegradable or compostable cutlery whenever possible, 3) BYOC or Bringing Your Own Cutlery whether that be utensils from home or a compact kit you can carry around with you, and 4) exploring edible cutlery. 

Straws

While there will be a general ban on plastic straws, it should be made known that straws WILL still be available for accessibility and medical reasons, and that’s been recognized by the Government of Canada. There will also be caveats or provisions to the bans if it means protecting vulnerable groups, and that’s okay! We consider this a win and an opportunity to design packaging that is both inclusive and supports a waste-free future.

As you can see, these are significant items being phased out, but we must do more. We must accelerate the ban timeline and be more aggressive toward creating positive change. 

NoSUP Canada is petitioning to strengthen regulations, close loopholes in the ban, and implement a clear action plan to eliminate SUPs by 2030. The deadline to sign is September 22 at 12:10 p.m. ET! [The petition is now closed]

References: 

CBC/Radio Canada. (2022, June 21). Government will ban some single-use plastics over the next 18
months | CBC News
. CBCnews. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from
https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/plastics-ban-countdown-1.6494379 

CBC/Radio Canada. (2022, July 9). Plastic ban stirs up emotions for swizzle stick collectors | CBC News.
CBCnews. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/swizzle-stick-collector-plastic-ban-1.6515419 

CBC/Radio Canada. (2022, July 7). What’s the best alternative to a single-use plastic bag? it depends |
CBC news. CBCnews. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from
https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/single-use-plastic-bag-alternatives-1.6511415 

Jiménez, J. (2022, March 30). Soda and beer companies are ditching plastic Six-pack rings. The
New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/us/beer-soda-plastic-rings-recycling.html 

Plastic-free resolutions for 2023

Canada’s single-use plastic ban came into effect on December 20, 2022, and we’re already seeing retailers and restaurants moving away from single-use plastics. So it’s no surprise that we want our resolutions to be plastic-free and zero-waste-focused this year. 

We’ve come down to five resolutions we’ll focus on, and we encourage you to add them to your list. 

  1. Create and pack a zero-waste kit. 
  2. Buy fewer packaged foods. 
  3. Pack your lunch when you’re going to school or work.
  4. Reach out to your representatives about issues that are important to you. 
  5. Read literature about living a plastic-free lifestyle and the positive impact of straying from plastics. 

Create and pack a zero-waste kit. 

Creating your zero-waste kit is essential during this period of straying away from single-use plastics and other plastic waste.

  1. Start with a lightweight non-plastic bag that fits your most commonly used bags. This will help store all your items in one spot. 
  2. Next, you’ll want to pack a multipurpose cutlery set that includes the basics of a reusable spoon, fork and knife for those quick bites at the park or in a car. Finally, you’ll be ready to eat anywhere with this set available. 
  3. Following this, a sustainable straw for your coffee or other beverages will come in handy.
  4. Additionally, a reusable water bottle is convenient, keeps you hydrated throughout the day, and can be easily refilled if there are water stations nearby. 
  5. BONUS: If you have space or can store items in your vehicle, you can add a travel mug and some reusable containers, especially useful when you have restaurant items to go. 

Buy fewer packaged foods. 

We encourage everyone to choose plastic-free foods as much as possible this year. There are several ways to do this. 

  1. Look for fresh fruits and vegetables not wrapped in plastic. For those “hard-to-avoid” items packaged in plastic, like strawberries, try to find ways to repurpose the packaging for as long as you can. 
  2. Avoid using the plastic bags offered in grocery stores for produce. Instead, use reusable cloth or mesh bags to carry your produce. 
  3. Frequent and support zero-waste grocery stores or refilleries for everyday essentials. This will challenge you to prepare for your shopping trips in advance.

Pack your lunch when you’re going to school or work.

Our third resolution is to pack our lunches when we go to school or work. Packing your lunch is an easy way to avoid using single-use plastics while reducing food waste. 

Packing a lunch also has other benefits besides being zero-waste friendly, including saving money, eating healthier, improving your cooking and food prep skills and a way to relax by being intentional with what you’re making for your body to consume. 

Reach out to your representatives about issues that are important to you.

Next, take more action this year. List your local, provincial and federal representatives and contacts and speak out on issues you want to be addressed. Connect with friends and family to gather support and confidence and see change unfold. 

Last year, we petitioned the Government of Canada to strengthen the single-use plastic ban and gathered almost 1,500 signatures. You’d be surprised how many people care about the same issues you do and are seeking change. 

Read and listen to literature about living a plastic-free lifestyle and the positive impact of straying from plastics. 

Last but certainly not least, we encourage you to read literature or listen to podcasts on the impacts of plastic waste, how to switch to a plastic-free lifestyle and current solutions to tackling plastic pollution. Consider this an opportunity to feel inspired by the innovation in this space and how much restoration and regeneration of nature can occur if we eliminate plastic. 

Our recommendations to start are the following: 

1. Say Goodbye To Plastic: A Survival Guide For Plastic-free Living

2. Downside Up Podcast: What if we lived in a world without plastic? by CNN

3. The Indisposable Podcast by Upstream

4. Plastisphere Podcast

5.   Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage Neuroscience To Reshape Marketplace Behavior by Michael E. Smith

There are many ways we can reduce our total plastic waste, and many innovative groups and people are finding solutions to our plastic problem. We’re looking forward to the day when Canada and all other countries meet their zero plastic waste and goals. But, it is only upward and onwards from here. 

How to Have a Green December

For December, we want to share ways to celebrate a Green December. It’s easy to get caught up on the holiday season, but we want to remind everyone that there are ways we can reduce our environmental impact during the end of the year and throughout the year. They include:

  1. Spending time in nature.
  2. Using recycled or reusable gift wrapping and exploring wrapping alternatives.
  3. More sustainable gifting from playing “White Elephant” to regifting a gift and shopping locally.
  4. Donate to a charity or organization you admire.
  5. Reduce your food waste by identifying correct portions and trying new recipes with leftovers.

Spending time in nature

The holiday season can be overwhelming, and a great way to decompress is by enjoying nature by going on a hike or walking on a new trail. Being outdoors will stimulate joy, less stress and increase positive emotions. Be intentional when you go out and enjoy nature and take the opportunity to reflect on how the Earth provides for us and what changes you can implement to live a green lifestyle.

Using recycled or reusable gift wrapping and exploring wrapping alternatives

Canadians tend to be 25% more wasteful during the holiday season due to the accumulation of gift wrapping and shopping bags. Worse, most gift wrapping is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. However, we can be more mindful of waste. For example, we can use recycled or recyclable gift wrap, upcycle gift wrap, avoid tape, and explore alternative wrapping methods like Japanese cloth wrapping.

Finding sustainable ways to gift

We often spend a lot during December. However, there are several ways we can limit the amount we spend while also reducing our environmental footprint.

  1. Play White Elephant: This game works well for groups of three or more individuals planning to exchange gifts. By drawing out names, you choose one person to gift rather than more. This encourages less waste from gift wrapping and packaging and keeps the bank intact.
  2. Shop locally for gifts: Supporting a small business also means that your contribution to greenhouse emissions has lowered due to fewer transportation costs from shipping and delivery.
  3. Regift an item better suited for someone else: If you feel comfortable doing so, consider regifting a present given to you to someone who can better use it.
  4. Shop secondhand: Participate in the circular economy and find hidden gems at thrift stores that can make the person you’re gifting very content.

Donating to a charity or to an organization you admire

Green giving is when you donate to organizations or projects focused on creating meaningful change toward reducing our environmental impact. NoSUP Canada is an example of an organization dedicated to reducing plastic waste globally, starting with more robust plastic ban policies, challenging food industry leaders to shift from single-use plastic to more sustainable solutions, and inspiring Canadians to lead zero-waste lifestyles.

We’re just starting and can use your support! Consider buying NoSUP Canada a plastic-free coffee today to support our mission of eliminating single-use plastic waste from Canada’s food system.

Reduce your food waste

Getting together with friends and family during the holiday typically comes with preparing and enjoying plenty of food. Therefore, we must be mindful of how we can mitigate the food waste we generate. This includes planning and considering portions, making new recipes with leftover foods and donating or regifting food baskets if you’re not planning on having them.

We can all do our part this holiday season to stay green during the holiday season and beyond. Let’s collectively work together to lead greener lifestyles and reduce our overall environmental impact.

What are your best tips for staying green during the holiday season?

What’s not included in Canada’s single-use plastic ban

From May to September, NoSUP Canada petitioned the Government of Canada to improve the single-use plastic ban by strengthening regulations and accelerating the timeline toward zero-plastic waste goals supported by almost 1,500 signatures. Unfortunately, the first phase of the single-use plastic ban only includes checkout bags, stir sticks, can rings, takeout items, cutlery and straws, representing only 3% of the total plastic waste created in Canada. We want to share what else should be included.

Below are seven items not in the single-use plastic ban but should be!

  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Plastic food wrappers
  • Plastic lids
  • Plastic produce bags
  • Bread bags and tags

Cigarette butts

Many people may not know that cigarette butts are primarily made of plastic; at present, 4.5 trillion individual butts pollute the environment. It can take up to ten years for cigarette butts to degrade, and until then, the chemicals released can end up in our natural systems and harm our environment. Organizations like A Greener Future are bringing greater awareness to cigarette litter in two ways. First, they are gathering volunteers to collect cigarette butts in the spring to send to TerraCycle Canada to be recycled appropriately and carry out long-term recycling opportunities for proper cigarette butt disposal.

Plastic bottles

5.3 million bottles of water are purchased by Canadians every day, and most of them end up in landfills and our natural systems. Other plastic beverage bottles also face the same fate. And despite most people in Canada having access to safe tap water, 20% of Canadians continue to drink from water bottles. In Canada, almost every province and territory has a version of a deposit system encouraging better recycling, but it needs to be standardized at a national level. In Singapore, they piloted a deposit program where consumers pay an additional 10–20 cents for pre-packaged plastic beverages. They can get their deposit back by returning the bottles to reverse vending machines.

Plastic bottle caps

Bottle caps are one of the top five items found in organized cleanups. Not only are they so commonly found, but they are also deadly for sea life due to their small size and vibrant colours. Reep Green Solutions partnered with Plastic Flux and Precious Plastic Canada this year for their Zero Waste Challenge to upcycle plastic bottle caps into benches that can be situated around the community. This is a perfect example of reusing materials and participating in the circular economy.

Plastic food wrappers

The narrative for the longest time has been that plastic-wrapped food helps extend the shelf life of products, but that’s not entirely true. We know plastic wrappers are challenging to recycle and release toxic chemicals into the environment. Unfortunately, plastic food packaging is systemic within the food industry, and NoSUP Canada plans to change that with your help. As citizens of the planet, we can substitute plastic wrappers with beeswax wraps. A small lifestyle change, like switching to reusable and sustainable wraps, can help divert waste from landfills.

Plastic beverage lids

One and a half billion kilograms of plastic is produced annually through the three billion plastic lids used for beverages. On top of so much plastic waste being produced and ending up in landfills and our ecosystems, these lids leak, contributing to unwanted spills and burns. In addition, these lids are neither sustainable nor functional, yet they continue to be used while contributing to the plastic waste problem. Fortunately, innovative replacement products are being made, like “Lipid,” a bio-based lid made of spruce and pine that is both eco-friendly and reliable compared to the current standard product.

Plastic produce bags, bread tags and tags

Plastic produce and bread bags are common single-use plastic in our grocery stores. However, they typically last only one use. Additionally, plastic bread tags are small and difficult to recycle, and several hundred metric tons of bread tags are produced to keep bread bags closed. In 2022, the largest bread producer in Canada, Bimbo, introduced and implemented cardboard clips made of 100% recycled and biodegradable material to replace bread tags. This change in operations will reduce their single-use plastic by 200 metric tonnes annually.

Wrapping Up Circular Economy Month

Definition of a circular economy: The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity, waste and pollution. It aims to redefine how we create products to design out waste and encourages access over ownership. 

As we say goodbye to October and start anew in November, we must not forget the impact and opportunities of participating in the circular economy. 

What started as a way to engage Canadians on the issues of waste one week of the year evolved into a whole month dedicated to educating and supporting individuals to transition to a circular economy. As a result, NoSUP Canada proclaimed October 2022 as Circular Economy Month this year. 

This month, we’ve learned quite a bit from the Circular Innovation Council and our peers in this space. 

There are three principles to the circular economy and questions we should ask ourselves: 

1. Eliminate waste and pollution: What happens to this at the end of its life? 

2. Circulate products and materials: Will this product go through a technical cycle, maintenance and repair, or a biological cycle where materials are composted? 

3. Regenerate nature: Are we reducing the extraction of virgin materials to help nature have more room to thrive? 

We began to think about how the circular economy can transform the plastic manufacturing industry and our actions. 

1. By investing in proper recycling methods or eliminating the production of plastic, we’re reducing carbon emitted through the incineration of plastic. 

2. We can reduce plastic waste when we proactively shop at zero-waste businesses and share marketplaces. 

3. We can also keep bodies of water cleaner by eliminating plastic. This has a direct effect on protecting marine life. 

4. Limiting the extraction of raw materials when we find better plastic alternatives will allow natural resources to thrive. 

5. Implementing the extended producer responsibility (ERP) will incentivize manufacturers to create resource-efficient and low-impact products and innovate towards designing out waste.

6. A sharing economy will encourage more trust, choice, flexibility, and opportunities for access for everyone. 

The circular economy presents an optimistic opportunity to reap economic, environmental, and social benefits, so let’s start working towards achieving that future. 

How to organize a cleanup

Beach cleanups, park cleanups and trail cleanups have been a popular part of environmental conservation for decades. Plogging — derived from the Swedish words for “pick-up while jogging” — has become a movement worldwide where individuals collect garbage while running, jogging, walking, and even scuba diving. While we recognize that cleanups don’t deal with the root causes of the generation of plastic waste in the first instance, cleanup activities can have several benefits, including:

  • Helping build awareness of plastic waste in our cities and natural environments.
  • Contributing to cleaner community spaces — the less garbage in public areas, the less litter left there.
  • Getting out and active, whether alone or with family, friends, or the wider community.

Confronting the extent of plastic waste while doing cleanups in Honduras, South Africa, Taiwan, and Canada led our founder, Karen Farley, to look at ways to tackle the issue of plastic waste at its source leading to them starting NoSUP Canada.

If you would like to organize a cleanup event, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Encourage participants to wear long pants and closed shoes and bring a reusable water bottle and a plastic-free snack.
  2. Consider providing garbage bags approved for your area, gloves and pick-up sticks — some municipalities may offer cleanup materials, for example, garbage bags.
  3. Know how to identify potentially harmful plants, for example, giant hogweed or poison ivy.
  4. Leave hazardous waste behind, for example, hypodermic needles — some municipalities have information on their websites on how to report these items.
  5. Dispose of garbage collected responsibly; municipal websites may have information on garbage collection from cleanup events.
  6. Set targets, with or without small prizes, for family-friendly fun, for example:
  • Collect a certain amount of garbage type, such as ten plastic bottles.
  • Sort garbage into types or colours.
  • Find the most unusual garbage item.
  • Create an art project with the trash collected.
  • Clean a small area in a specified amount of time.

7. Take photos and share them on social media to build greater awareness of the plastic waste problem and show others just how much fun you had. Don’t forget to tag @nosupcanada and use the hashtag #saynosup!

The Origins of Plastic Free July

Every year, over 100 million people participate in Plastic Free July in over 190 countries worldwide. 

But how did this begin? 

It all started when Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, the founder and current Executive Director of the Plastic Free Foundation, visited a recycling facility in Western Australia and witnessed the amount of waste produced. She was overwhelmed by the amount of plastic that existed. 

This led her to challenge herself to go plastic free the following month. She rallied 40 individuals from her community in Western Australia, including friends, family and local government and unknowingly created a formal challenge that would soon become a global movement. 

This movement has led to impactful changes such as reducing 2.1 billion tonnes of waste and recycling and reducing global demand for bottled water, fruit and vegetable packaging and plastic straws. However, with plastic production estimated to quadruple by 2050, this is simply not enough. We can continue to do better! 

For that reason, NoSUP Canada has started a petition to strengthen regulatory definitions around the ban on single-use plastics in Canada. Consider signing Petition E-4029 today to apply pressure to the Canadian government further to implement a meaningful action which includes: 

  1. Strengthening regulatory definitions to include more harmful single-use plastic items and close loopholes that currently allow plastic items to be replaced with more durable problematic plastic; 
  2. Remove the exemption that allows banned products to continue to be manufactured and exported; 
  3. Revise the exception of the retail sale on single-use plastic straws to people needing them for medical purposes can request them; 
  4. Implement a clear and staged action plan to eliminate single-plastics by 2030; and 
  5. Bring these proposed regulations into force six months after they are published. 

Contribute to change this Plastic Free July and beyond! 

Tempus. (June 2021). Tempus News – a positive change: Rebecca Prince-Ruiz writes about the power of Plastic Free July. tempus. Retrieved July 2022, from https://tempusmagazine.co.uk/news/a-positive-change-rebecca-prince-ruiz-writes-about-the-power-of-plastic-free-july  

Prince-Ruiz, R. (2021, November 19). July is plastic free month! Medium. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://blog.streamlabs.com/july-is-plastic-free-month-5e43fd516ae5 

About. Plastic Free July. (2022, July 8). Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/about-us/  

Sign now to ban single-use plastic in Canada

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:

  • The United Nations names plastic pollution as the second greatest threat to the environment after climate change;
  • The federal government has drafted single-use plastics regulations as a step towards eliminating harmful plastic pollutants;
  • The proposed federal regulations contain loopholes in the definitions which will allow manufacturers to create more durable single-use plastics, including cutlery and plastic bags;
  • The definitions exclude common plastic litter, such as single-use hot and cold beverage containers and lids, and packaging for consumer goods;
  • The proposed regulations allow for the continued manufacturing and export of harmful single-use plastics;
  • These regulatory loopholes will contribute to the creation of more problematic plastic pollution entering the marine and terrestrial environment;
  • Canada needs to create stronger regulations to eliminate plastic pollution;
  • Other jurisdictions, including Chile and the European Union, are leading the way on single-use plastics bans with regulations that Canada could use as an example to build on; and
  • Advocates in Canada, including Oceana Canada, strongly support strengthening the federal government’s proposed regulations.

We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:

1. Strengthen regulatory definitions to include more harmful single-use plastic items and close loopholes that currently allow plastic items to be replaced with more durable problematic plastic;

2. Remove the exemption that allows banned products to continue to be manufactured and exported;

3. Revise the retail sales exception on single-use plastic straws so people needing them for medical purposes can request them;

4. Implement a clear and staged action plan to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030; and

5. Bring these proposed regulations into force six months after they are published.

Unpacking Canada’s Single-Use Plastic Ugly Truth

Canada has a plastic problem with an overreliance on single-use plastic.

3.3 million metric tons of plastic are disposed of in Canada each year.

50% of the plastic used in Canada is for single-use items.

Only 9% is recycled, with the remainder ending up in landfills or polluting land and waterways.

And plastic waste is projected to increase by thirty percent over the next decade.

NoSUP Canada aims to eliminate single-use plastic in Canada*.

*NoSUP recognizes that single-use plastic items are used by some groups of the Canadian population and will work to ensure any ban on SUP allows for exemptions for these groups.