From shopping bags to take-out cutlery and containers, plastic has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life for many Canadians, but big changes are officially starting to roll out. Back in June, the Government of Canada announced that some single-use plastic items will be banned in Canada. The first phase of these bans — a ban of the manufacture and import for sale of single-use plastics — came into effect on Dec. 20, 2022. From what’s banned now to what’s to come next year and beyond as Canada strives to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, here’s what we know about Canada’s ban on single-use plastic items so far.
Which types of single-use plastics will be banned in Canada?
The ban focuses on the following six categories of single-use plastic items:
- Checkout bags
- Foodservice ware (i.e., takeout containers) made from or containing problematic plastics that are hard to recycle
- Ring carriers (i.e., the plastic ring carriers used to hold a six-pack of aluminum cans)
- Stir sticks
- Straws (with some exceptions — more on this later)
While this list of six categories may seem brief (and, as a CBC News explains, the types of single-use plastics being banned account for only about three per cent of the plastic waste that is generated each year in Canada), it still represents a large quantity of plastic.
As the government release explains, up to 15 billion plastic checkout bags are used every year in Canada — and they estimate that about 16 million straws are used daily. These types of single-use plastics account for most of the plastic litter found on shorelines across this land.
Some companies are already responding to the new ban with alternatives. On Dec. 20, Tim Hortons announced that their restaurants across Canada will be introducing wooden and fibre cutlery starting in early 2023 — a move that they say will eliminating an estimated use of 90 million single-use plastics a year.
When will these single-use plastics be banned in Canada?
In terms of timing, the government’s plan to keep harmful single-use plastics out of the environment will come into effect in a few phases:
- To start, the ban on the manufacture and import of the six categories of single-use plastics came into effect on Dec. 20, 2022, with a few exceptions (for example, plastic ring carriers get an extra six-months grace time).
- However, to give businesses in Canada time to transition and use up their existing stocks, the sale of these items won’t be prohibited until December 2023.
- By the end of 2025, however, the export of plastics in the six categories will be prohibited.
“We promised Canadians we would deliver a ban on single-use plastics. Today, that’s exactly what we’ve done,” the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said in the release in June 2022. “By the end of the year, you won’t be able to manufacture or import these harmful plastics. After that, businesses will begin offering the sustainable solutions Canadians want, whether that’s paper straws or reusable bags. With these new regulations, we’re taking a historic step forward in reducing plastic pollution, and keeping our communities and the places we love clean.”
What about plastic straws?
While straws are one of the six categories on the list of prohibited single-use plastics, there are some exceptions. Notably, sales of flexible (or bendy) plastic straws will be restricted as of December 2023, however they will not be outright banned. As the release explains, “exceptions to the ban on straws allow single-use plastic flexible straws to remain available for people in Canada who require them for medical or accessibility reasons,” such as healthcare settings.
The flexible straws that come packaged with juice boxes are another special case. As with ring carriers, the manufacture and import of these types of straws will be prohibited in June 2023, and the sale of these items will come into effect in June 2024.