The majority of Canadians want to see the federal government step up when it comes to expanding the list of banned single-use plastics, according to a new survey.
According to a poll released by Oceana Canada, two-thirds of Canadians think the federal government should expand its plastic ban to include additional harmful single use plastics.
“Canadians are overwhelmingly concerned about the plastic pollution crisis with 95 per cent saying they were concerned about the impacts on oceans and marine life,” Oceana Canada plastic campaigner Ashley Wallis told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
Last fall the federal government announced a ban of six single-use plastic items that are set to be phased out across the country by 2022. The list includes plastic grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, plastic cutlery, six-pack rings and food containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics.
At the time, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said retailers will be expected to provide plastic alternatives to customers.
Oceana Canada says the list only covers a “fraction” of what is actually used on a day-to-day basis.
“We know that only nine per cent of plastics are currently recycled in Canada, and we know that the vast majority of plastics that we use are actually challenging to recycle,” said Wallis.
She says Canada’s recycling systems were never designed to handle the volume or complexity of materials on the market. Despite the amount of work that still needs to be done, Wallis recognizes that the government is making good first steps.
“It’s great to see leadership in this space, but if we’re serious about handling this crisis, we need to get more serious about reducing our plastic use and consumption overall,” said Wallis.
The survey of 1,500 Canadians was conducted by Abacus Data. Of those surveyed, most said they want to see the government add more harmful products including hot and cold drink cups, cigarette filters and all forms of polystytrene including Styrofoam.
Each of these products are commonly littered and often end up in waterways as a result. The federal government’s initiative to ban six plastic products is part of a larger plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
But unless additional items are added to the list, Wallis says pollution will only get worse.
“It’s estimated that plastic production is going to double by 2035,” said Wallis.
However, a separate survey by Dalhousie University from last summer suggested that since the beginning of the pandemic, Canadian support for stronger single-use plastic regulations actually fell, possibly due to increased concern about the spread of the virus and the need for plastic-based PPE.
The report suggested that support for stronger regulations on plastics fell to 79 per cent compared to 90 per cent before the pandemic, and support for a total ban fell to 58 per cent, compared to 70 per cent before the pandemic.
Although Wallis said she is optimistic people will change their attitudes towards plastic use, meaningful change will inevitably fall on the government.
“At the end of the day this is a systemic problem that’s going to take legislative action, not just you as an individual making the best choices you can in a world that is constantly inundated with more plastic,” said Wallis.