The international community, including those from governments to environmental non-governmental organizations and from individuals to corporations have been inundated recently with talk about the environmental impacts of single-use plastics (SUPs) – especially plastic shopping bags and straws (Schnurr and Walker 2018). In Nova Scotia, marine debris collected as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup included SUP items such as cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps, straws/stirrers, and plastic beverage bottles. which broadly mirror those across the rest of Canada. In addition, there were plastic fishing ropes and strapping bands (Pettipas et al. 2016). Microplastic fibers have also been found in intertidal sediments and blue mussels in Halifax Harbour (Mathalon and Hill 2014), and in most seawater grab samples collected in an ongoing study near Lunenburg (CBC News 2018). Canada’s Presidency at the 2018 G7 in Charlevoix had reducing marine plastic pollution, as one (of five) themes in “Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy” (Government of Canada 2018; Ocean Plastics Charter 2018). After the June G7 meeting, all but two G7 leaders (including the European Union as one whole) committed to, among other announcements, an Ocean Plastics Charter (Japan and the US did not sign on, albeit for vastly different reasons) (Ocean Plastics Charter 2018). In democratic and bureaucratic fashion, the Plastics Charter contains five working areas, each with between two and six commitment actions. All are geared towards “[taking] action toward a resource-efficient lifecycle management approach to plastics in the economy” (Ocean Plastics Charter 2018). The plan is to move towards zero plastic waste, by reducing and recycling SUPs (Walker and Xanthos 2018). This is an are the most vulnerable (these two groups are often not the same). Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was optimistic the Ocean Plastics Charter could be a ‘Paris Agreement for plastics’. The Canadian leadership has spoken and has latched onto plastics as the eco-campaign of 2018. Now Canada needs to walk the talk.
Single-use plastics, Canada, Environmental impact
Schnurr, R.E.J., Walker, T.R., 2019. Should Canada’s foreign aid policy help address the environmental impact of single-use plastics?: A commentary. Proceedings of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science 50(1): 35-39.