Barrett: Single-use plastic ban in Canada is not a solution for global problem

The federal government will announce a plan Monday to ban harmful single-use plastics such as drinking straws as early as 2021. Canadian Press

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Our federal Liberal government apparently wants everyone to start drinking their red Kool-Aid out of Trudeau wine glasses.

That’s right – no plastic juice boxes or plastic straws allowed.

This week they once again put forward what they want Canadians to believe is an environmental policy – a plan to ban all single use plastics in the country by 2021 – that is really nothing more than an elaborate show to try and gain support from environmentalists ahead of the fall election.

I can admire the intent behind banning single-use plastics. Anyone paying attention to news, whether it’s local or national, knows Canada’s recycling industry is broken. China, Malaysia and other countries that used to buy our plastics are now refusing our materials, resulting in recycling companies needing to adjust their operations – doubling their rates, accepting fewer materials and paying to have so-called recyclable plastics dumped in landfills because there’s nowhere else for those materials to go.

The City of Lacombe, in response, chose to throw residential blue bin pickup in the trash with plans to pursue alternative waste disposal solutions.

In contrast, the federal government decided the answer to combatting current plastic waste is forcing Canadians to just stop using single-use plastic in the next two years.

Except one does not simply stop using plastic – and Trudeau himself admitted as much when he floundered after a reporter asked him during his announcement what he and his family do to cut back on plastic.

“We have recently switched to drinking water bottles out of water out of, when we have water bottles out of plastic, uh, sorry, away from plastic toward paper, um, like drink box water bottles kind of things,” he said.

The sad part is his incoherence was every bit as informative as his response to questions about how the ban will work, from what will be included in the ban, what it will cost, and what products will be used to replace plastic straws and bags – none of which he had concrete answers for.

Sure, he touted the ban will reduce 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution, billions in revenue and create 42,000 jobs. Trudeau also tweeted later that Canadians throw away 57 million straws per day – an average of 1.5 for each and every Canadian every 24 hours – so I’m finding it hard to buy his numbers, let alone this plan.

It’s not a solution. It’s not even a good Band-Aid for the issue.

For one, it doesn’t address the plastic already being stockpiled and thrown in the dump, or why Canada even has to export plastic waste rather than having facilities within our own country to recycle the materials. It doesn’t address any incentive to spur companies to think outside the box for waste management solutions.

It’s also much like the carbon tax in that it will only truly work if the entire world does the same.

Canada, alone, will have next to no impact in reducing single-use plastic pollution on a global scale. When it comes to our oceans, for example, 95 per cent of plastic comes from 10 rivers – eight in Asia and two in Africa.

Good environmental policy would be to support those third-world countries in cleaning up their waterways, or incentivizing, as CPC Leader Andrew Scheer suggested, a reduction in single-use plastic.

After all, those plastics have to be replaced with something, and often the materials used instead are much more cost-prohibitive, meaning manufacturing prices will be downloaded onto the consumer, and costs of goods will once again rise.

Those materials often come with higher emissions – which many news channels have touched on in recent days. Using those “single-use” plastic bags as many times as possible was actually more environmentally friendly than paper or cotton reusable shopping bags.

How, then, is a switch bettering the environment?

Credit where credit is due – the Liberals aren’t incapable of coming up with real environmental policy. They passed the long overdue ‘Free Willy’ bill, banning whale and dolphin captivity in Canada, which I think pretty much everyone can get behind.

It’s these kinds of “real change” solutions the Liberals should stick to.