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Canada will ban “harmful” single-use plastics as early as 2021 in a bid to reduce ocean waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced.
This initiative is modelled on similar legislation passed last year by the European Union and other nations.
Canada will also establish “targets” for companies that manufacture or sell plastics to be responsible for their plastic waste.
Currently less than 10% of plastic used in Canada gets recycled.
Mr Trudeau called the issue of plastic pollution a “global challenge”.
In May, the United Nations said 180 countries reached a deal to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans, where it can harm fish, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife.
Marine animals can become entangled in larger plastics – particularly cord, nets and ropes from fishing.
While European and North American countries tend to produce a lot of plastic waste per capita, their management of that waste limits the impact of that product on the ocean compared to other regions, according to research out of the UK.
The Canadian government has yet to decide which single-use plastic products will be included on the list but it could target plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks.
About 3m tonnes of plastic waste is thrown away each year in the country.
“As parents we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles,” Mr Trudeau said.
“That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”
In October 2018, the EU voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.
The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.
That included a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks and a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.
The prime minister made the announcement a few months before the next general election, which is scheduled for this coming autumn.
Issues like climate change and pollution are widely expected to be among the top concerns on the campaign trail.
Across Canada, a number of municipalities and some provinces have recently moved ahead with various single-use plastics bans, mainly targeting plastic bags.
Mr Trudeau acknowledged those efforts and said “a real solution needs to be nation-wide”.
Ending dolphin and whale captivity
Canadian legislators also passed a bill on Monday that will ban the wild capture, captivity, and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the country.
There will be a provision in place to allow organisations that keep cetaceans in captivity for rehabilitation or in the best interests of their welfare to continue to do their work.
All cetaceans currently in captivity will be exempt.
The legislation, first tabled in 2015, has been closely watched by animal rights groups, which say keeping cetaceans in captivity for public display is unethical.
“No tank is large enough or deep enough” for whales or dolphins to be able to live naturally in captivity, said Melissa Matlow with World Animal Protection Canada.
Canada is joining a handful of other countries in banning keeping such creatures in captivity solely for commercial purposes.