Expert Advisory - Single-use plastics ban

Monday, June 10, 2019

Expert Advisory - Single-use plastics ban 

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2019

The Government of Canada recently announced plans to ban certain single-useplastics as early as 2021. This decision falls on the heels of the G7 summit that was held in Charlevoix, Quebec in 2018, where countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. signed on to the  Canada-led Oceans Plastic Charter as a step towards dealing with marine plastics litter. 

Specific items that will be included in the ban are yet to be determined but are likely to follow the model chosen by the European Union and include items such as plastic straws, cutlery and drink stirrers. 

The following experts are available for interviews:

Jennifer Lynes - School of Environment, Enterprise and Development and co-founder of the Sustainable Concerts Working Group 

Jennifer Lynes is an associate professor in the Faculty of Environment. Her research intersects marketing, social psychology and sustainability, where she examines strategies for encouraging behaviour-based change aimed at fostering a culture of sustainability. She has also worked with UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Jack Johnson to reduce single-use plastics.

“Plastics make up as much as 80% of marine litter and studies have shown that bans of certain single-use plastic reduces this litter by up to 89%.  A number of provinces and municipalities across Canada have already announced their intention to implement a variety of single-use plastic bans; however, the time has come for a nation-wide plan that tackles this issue. 

The speed with which consumers, businesses and government have embraced the reduction of items such as plastic straws over the past two years is astonishing.  In one month, for example, demand for paper straws increased by 5000%. So we also have to make sure that the alternatives are ready to scale up to the changing landscape of the market.”

Flora Ng – Chemical Engineering

Prof. Flora T.T. Ng is a chemical engineering professor at the University of Waterloo. Prof. Ng is a past recipient of the Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Award, her areas of expertise.

“The Federal Government's proposal to ban the use of single-use plastics is timely and is very significant since plastics have accumulated in landfills, dump sites, waterways and even in oceans where the food chain is suffering significant damage.

The proposal will help to spur a new industrial sector to recycle plastics, e.g. use of plastics to make clean transportation fuels and could stimulate the use of Canadian biomass resources to produce plastics, fuels and chemicals instead of using chemicals derived from fossil fuels.”

Wayne Parker – Environmental Engineering

Wayne Parker is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and a member of the Waterloo Institute at the University of Waterloo. 

“A growing number of organizations are adopting a circular economy approach to waste management. The presence of plastics in waste streams makes the recovery of value-added products from wastes more challenging.”

Komal Habib – Waste management

Komal Habib is an assistant professor in Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment and researches resource and waste management.

Plastics are used heavily in our daily lives, from single-use items to textiles, consumer electronics, buildings and construction, etc. As plastics are not biodegradable, they stay in the environment for more than a human lifetime (and even longer), resulting in drastic impacts on our environment. 

Prevention is better than cure holds true in this situation as well. Preventing plastic waste from being produced is definitely better than dealing with all the technical, economic and environmental challenges associated with plastic waste handling afterwards. Banning single-use plastics should have been implemented long ago; however, it is still a good first step towards facing the ever-increasing plastic waste challenge. 

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