Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean – and although groups like 4ocean have removed significant amounts (4ocean itself has removed 4.7 million pounds of trash since 2017), more than a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute.
Half of all plastic produced is made for a single use, including up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags annually. Fewer than 10 percent of those are actually recycled, and what’s left can persist for hundreds of years in the environment.
Now Canada wants to ban single-use plastics. But will it work?
Some experts say that a prohibition on single-use plastic products might not address the worst types of plastic litter, although Canadian officials say that the potential bans would do more than address the litter problem. They’d also cut nearly 2 million tons of carbon pollution, as well as stimulate the Canadian economy by creating 42,000 new jobs.
The ban would address things like plastic bags, cutlery and plates, straws, takeout packages, cups and cigarette butts.
Max Liboiron, an environmental scientist at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that those things aren’t what he’s cleaning up off the beaches, though. She says that the trash mainly includes things like fishing gear and microplastics. (Microplastics are pieces of broken-down particles of plastics that collect and leach out harmful chemicals and heavy metals.)
Other opponents of Trudeau’s proposed ban say that banning plastic straws place a burden on people with disabilities – with some going so far as to say that plastic straw bans are a step backward for accessibility.
Proponents have other ideas, though, like Morton Barlaz, an environmental engineer with North Carolina State University.
“Nothing works like an incentive better than money. Instead of banning bags, we could start charging for them,” says Borlaz. “Anything we’re talking about – a straw, a plastic bag, a piece of cutlery – it has a function consumers want. If we ban it, we need to think about the alternative and what that alternative does for people and the environment.”
Loboiron believes that financial means are the best way to lower plastic use, too, only she says that reducing Canada’s oil subsidies will do the trick. Oil is the source of all petroleum-based products, so an increase in prices could decrease the demand for single-use plastics, which would automatically become more expensive.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on single-use plastics bans. Do you think they’re a good idea, or do you have a better solution? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!