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Canada aims to ban plastic food containers by 2021

Prime Minister Trudeau says his government will also work with the provinces to require a cleanup of plastic litter by restaurants and other users of nonbiodegradable packaging.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Canada will ban single-use plastic food containers and utensils by 2021 while working with provincial governments to require a cleanup of plastic litter by restaurants and other commercial sources, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged today.

The announcement said the ban would cover almost every form of plastic disposable used by restaurants, from plates to straws, stirrers and bags. Polystyrene clamshells and other containers would also presumably be covered.

The measure will put pressure on American restaurant chains and packaging suppliers doing business in Canada to come up with alternatives almost immediately. Although a number of biodegradable containers are already available on either side of the Canadian-United States border, operators say the cost is considerably higher than what they currently pay for petroleum-based items. 

The move is also expected to foster more bans in the U.S. Several locales, from New York City to California, have outlawed particular plastic items (polystyrene food containers in New York, plastic straws in full-service restaurants in California). In May, Maine became the first U.S. state to enact a ban on polystyrene food containers, effective 2021. The state shares a border with Canada. 

The pledge to ban plastic is intended to cut Canada’s litter and help the environment. The prime minister’s office estimated that less than 10% of the nation’s plastic waste is recycled. 

“Canadians know firsthand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come.”

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