Plastic Pollution Q & A

Why should single-use plastics be banned?

Single-use plastics are unnecessary, wasteful and harmful to our health and to the environment. Single use plastics create waste and pollution. They harm fish, plants, wildlife and the natural environment by leaching toxins into soil, water and air. They poison, injure and kill wildlife. Single-use plastics are rarely recycled, instead ending up in landfills, waterways or incinerated, guaranteeing that they will be choking the earth for centuries, if not forever. The planet has limited space and limited time to deal with this emergency, which is contributing to a decline in species, human health and biological diversity.

The use of fossil fuels and other chemicals in the production of these products is a key contributor to the global warming crisis, from their processing through to their transport and disposal. According to the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Brand Audit 2020, “in the United States alone, extracting and transporting natural gas for plastic production generates an estimated 12.5 to 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.”

Much single-use plastic waste is offloaded to poorer countries where it is regularly burned or abandoned, shortening inhabitant’s lives and destroying their environment. This is just one aspect of environmental racism.

Single-use items are not only usually made of plastic but most are wrapped in plastic packaging. Though there is pushback, there are multiple alternatives. We have no time to ‘waste’.

What about the 2021 proposed federal ban on single-use plastics?

The proposed federal ban should be strengthened. It should include all single-use items such as all types of plastic bags (not just the proposed grocery bags), water bottles, food packaging, plastic cups and lids, coffee cups, cigarette filters, etc…. Effort needs to be made to help suppliers retrofit and to help ‘take-out food’ purveyors find alternatives. Replacing plastic with paper is not the answer either as forests are already under great pressure. Furthermore, if single-use plastics are available, people will not be incentivized to look for alternatives. Canada needs a Federal Committee to present alternatives to businesses/consumers, involving them in the process. Timelines need to be as strict as possible and as soon as possible.

Why won’t recycling solve the plastic pollution crisis?

Plastic can usually be recycled only a limited number of times, often only once into same item. Plastics degrade when they’re recycled, so they are seldom remade into their original products. Single use plastics are unnecessary. In this era of diminishing resources we should be looking to end our fondness for disposables whether made of plastic or other types of material.

In instances where using packaging is unavoidable consider that:

• aluminum cans can be recycled an infinite number of times

• paper can be recycled 5-7 times into copy paper, after that it can be made into newsprint or egg cartons

• metals like copper and steel can be recycled an infinite number of times

• glass bottles and jars can be recycled an infinite number of times

While recycling makes sense for some material, it really doesn’t make sense for plastic. Recycling programmes encourage people to use more and more plastic believing the problem is being taken care of, thus making the problem worse rather than better,

In the end, most plastic doesn’t get recycled. In fact, only about 10% of plastic waste gets recycled into plastic. Most of it ends up in landfill or gets incinerated.

What can you do?

  • Check “upcoming events” on the homepage for information about current campaigns
  • Contact your MP and let them know that while you are encouraged by the federal government proposal to ban some types of single use plastic, the proposed bans on plastic grocery bags, straws, six-pack rings, stir sticks, cutlery and some take out containers does not go far enough. We need bans on all types of single use plastic be banned including non-grocery store bags, water bottles, food packaging, plastic cups and lids, coffee cups, cigarette filters, etc.
  • Contact your MPP and tell them that in their new proposed regulations for the blue box, Ontario needs to:

Include plastics and packaging that are created by the business and industrial sectors, which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of Ontario’s waste generation and disposal;

Set high and detailed diversion targets to ensure producers can’t ignore the hardest-to-recycle materials and to encourage reduction and redesign;

Include specific recycling standards to make sure that materials are going to the highest and most valuable uses, and are free from toxic chemicals and additives;

Include mechanisms to prevent toxic substances from contaminating recycling systems and recycled materials; and

Ensure that comprehensive and standardized recycling is available for all Ontarians, no matter where they live, work, and play

And what  can you do at home and work?

Reduce, reuse, recycle, replace

  • Stop using bottled water other than for essential purposes (e.g. as a source of water during an extreme weather event)
  • Reduce your household’s use of disposable plastics
  • Adopt some or all of these tips from StopPlastics’ volunteers
  • Use reusable bags and recycle your old plastic bags.
  • At your workplace get management to ban water bottles and other non-reusable plastic products (other than for essential purposes such as in hospitals.)