Canada’s Plastic Accord

It takes about five seconds to make a plastic bag, and we use each bag for about five minutes on average. These same bags last five centuries in our environment and the ocean. Plastic is literally choking our lakes and rivers, but did you know that by 2050 plastic in the ocean will outweigh the fish?

The G7 recently met in Halifax to discuss how to reduce the flow of plastic waste into landfill sites and the ocean. Joining us to explain what all this means is our regular environmental contributor, Lawrence Gunther, host of Blue Fish Radio heard each Friday at 8: pm on AMI Audio.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Welcome back Lawrence, how did the G7 meeting go in Halifax and was Canada able to convince the other six nations and industry representatives to take action?

A. The G7 ministers meeting was used by Canada to promote the Canadian-led oceans plastic charter. In June 2018 the EU and Five of the seven G7 nations agreed to the non-binding Accord, with Japan and the U.S. holding out. That hasn’t changed.
A. Canada next took the Charter to the United Nations General Assembly, and will next bring the Charter to the G20 group of nations, which includes China, Indonesia and other major producers of plastic waste.

Q. Is there now enough support for the Ocean Plastics Charter to make a real difference?

A. The Accord needs wider international acceptance to stop the use of the ocean as an open dump, and to reduce pressure on landfill sites.
A. More than half of the plastic waste comes from Asian nations.
A. 111 million tonnes of plastic waste will have nowhere to go by 2030 due to a new import ban put in place by China, who were once the world’s largest recyclers of used plastic.
A. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is estimated to hold 79,000 tonnes of plastic — about half of that is comprised of lost fishing nets.

Q. What does the charter call for?

A. The charter’s provisions call for national governments to set standards for increasing the reuse and recycling of plastics rather than trashing them. It also calls for businesses to take responsibility for production methods that eliminate waste — an approach referred to as “extended producer responsibility.”
A. Ottawa has yet to fully outline what its national strategy to reducing plastic waste will be, and what the broad goals of the accord will mean on the ground.

Q. Do we already have some commitments?

A. Ottawa announced that government operations would phase out the use of single use plastics.
A. Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced programs to reduce the amount of discarded fishing gear.
A. Coca-Cola, Unilever, Nestle Canada and other big corporations signed on to the Charter committing to eliminate single use plastics in their operations and packaging by 2040.
A. Canada will continue to take the ocean plastics charter too international fora to gain more signatories, both from countries and large corporations.

Q. What do environmental organizations think about the Charter?

A. They all agree that Canada needs to show more leadership at home to sustain international credibility.
A. Ottawa needs to create a national “extended producer responsibility system, where the manufacturer designs products and packaging that never become waste and are always part of the supply chain.”
A. The Suzuki foundation says the only measure that would make a major impact on plastic waste is “complete elimination of disposable plastic products.”
A. Others have been critical of the charter for its failure to act more rapidly, and for leaving in wording that would allow for the incineration of plastics.

Q. What can us as Canadians do in the meantime?

A. Despite a rise in our adoption of recycling, Canadians remain among the most wasteful people in the developed world, with garbage being produced by households going up 18 per cent from 2012 to 2014,
A. 25 million tonnes of waste ends up in Canada’s landfills each year.
A. There’s little doubt businesses need to get on board with practical solutions on how to turn plastic waste into a financial asset.
A. The World is throwing out $150 billion worth of plastic waste each year, which doesn’t make any sense.
A. So in a nut shell, we need to do a lot more in Canada just to get out of bottom place on the list of the world’s worst polluters.