Canada is banning single-use plastics. | Christopher Vega / Unsplash

Canadians will need to remember their reusable grocery bags when they go shopping next year; Canada has announced it will ban plastic bags by the end of 2021.

Also included in the ban are single-use plastic products like drink stirrers, straws, six-pack soda can rings, utensils, and food containers.

The sweeping single-use plastic ban is part of the country’s commitment to achieving zero plastic waste by 2030.

During a press conference, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change said: “Plastic pollution threatens our natural environment. It fills our rivers or lakes, and most particularly our oceans, choking the wildlife that lives there. Canadians see the impact that pollution has from coast to coast to coast.”

Canada’s Plastic Problem

According to the Canadian government, about three million tons of plastic are wasted each year. Of this, only nine percent is recycled; the rest winds up in landfills or the environment.

In an op-ed published to The Chronicle Herald, Minister Wilkinson said this figure is “the equivalent of 570 garbage bags full of plastic every minute, every day.” He continued: “It is estimated that if we do nothing about it, in just 30 years, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean.”

Wilkinson noted that plastic waste represents about $8 billion in lost value.

During the press conference, he added there would be exemptions in place for personal protective equipment. Various plastics used in the medical field would also be exempt from the ban.

Tackling Plastic Pollution

Canada isn’t the first country to tackle plastic waste.

England just passed its own single-use plastic ban. Plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds are now banned in a bid to reduce the country’s impact on the environment.

It is now illegal for businesses to sell or distribute single-use plastic items throughout the country.

The new measure took effect on October 1. It was originally scheduled for April, however, the coronavirus pandemic caused the government to postpone the ban.

“Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head-on,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said in a statement.

Last year, the EU Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban single-use plastics. The ban is scheduled to take effect in 2021.