Canada banning single-use plastics as early as 2021

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey

The government also plans new measures that would shift responsibility of recycling to companies that manufacture or sell plastic products.

Canada will ban many single-use plastic items by 2021, including bags, straws, cutlery and stirring sticks, to cut harmful waste damaging the country's ecosystems. Plastic has been found inside marine animals including sea turtles, seals, whales and birds.

In making its announcement on Monday, the Canadian government acknowledged the country's unique global role in curbing production of single-use plastics: "With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world's freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility - and opportunity - to lead in reducing plastic pollution", the government said in its announcement.

Canada may require manufacturers to use a set amount of recycled content, the statement said. In March, the EU Parliament voted to impose a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastics, and has noted the production of plastics today is 20 times higher than in the 1960s.

He tweeted that Canadians throw away 15 billion plastic bags a year and 57 million straws every day.

"Many other countries are doing that and Canada will be one of them", Trudeau said.

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Trudeau promised on multiple occasions that a "Canadian solution" was in the works, but the waste continued to sit in ports near Manila. Its officials said the garbage was illegally transported and protested being treated like dumpsites by wealthier nations. The prime minister has made protecting the environment a key tenet of his government's mandate, but it hasn't been easy.

The environment is shaping up as a key issue in Canadian legislative elections set for October, with Trudeau's main challenger vowing if he wins to roll back environmental protections, including a federal carbon tax and a tanker traffic ban along a pristine part of the Pacific coast. The "tax on pollution", as the Trudeau government calls it, had been scaled-down to address concerns from the business community about competition and attracting overseas investment.

Last year, a federal court of appeals ruled that the government had failed to adequately consult with indigenous groups and halted the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which would almost triple the amount of western Canadian crude moved from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.

Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, told reporters in Ottawa that the ban was an attempt by Trudeau, who faced a leadership crisis this year, "to change the channel".

"Our fundamental belief is that globally, plastics will continue to grow and that we'll need multiple plants to be built year over year to enable that growth", he said in an interview.

"This is clearly a government clutching at straws", he said.

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