Canada must stop exporting its plastic problem

plastic wastes

Leading ocean conservancy and environmental groups are calling on Ottawa to take immediate regulatory action to address plastic wastes and pollution.

By SeaWestNews

As Philippines and Malaysia demand Canada take back boatloads of contaminated plastics shipped to their countries, leading ocean conservancy and environmental groups are calling on Ottawa to take immediate regulatory action to address plastic wastes and pollution.

“Dumping plastics in developing countries is only the visible tip of a veritable Canadian waste plastic iceberg,” said Chloé Dubois, President of Ocean Legacy, a Canadian non-profit organization that develops and implements plastic pollution emergency response programs worldwide.

“We see discarded plastic bottles, bottle caps, cigarette butts, fishing nets, buoys, crab trays, ropes and polystyrene all along the coast and in the coastal waters of British Columbia”, said Dubois (pictured).

 “We can see it, scientists say it is having an impact and other jurisdictions are taking action. We need to do the same and we need to do it now.”

Ocean Legacy and other conservancy and environmental groups have written a letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health seeking a meeting to address the issue.

They want any plastic generated as a waste, or discharged from the use or disposal of products or packaging, to be added to the Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

Doing so would allow the federal government to pass laws requiring producers of products containing plastics or using plastic packaging to collect and recycle them; to prevent exports of plastics to developing countries; to require recycled plastics to be used in making products and packaging; to ban single-use plastic items that aren’t collected and end up as litter and marine pollution; and, to reduce microplastic waste from clothing and other products that pollute fish Canadians eat, the groups said in a statement.

According to a study for Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada’s plastics recycling rate is 9%. Canada landfills or burns 91% or 2.93 million tonnes of the waste plastic generated each year. Canada’s rivers, lakes and oceans receive an additional 29,000 metric tonnes of plastic litter – the equivalent of 9.7 billion coffee cup lids.

A systematic review of data from 139 lab and field studies by researchers at the University of Toronto concluded, “…that there is evidence that plastic pollution of all shapes and sizes can affect organisms across all levels of biological organization. There is no doubt that plastic pollution can have an impact on wildlife, and there is compelling evidence suggesting macro-plastics are already impacting marine populations, species, and ecosystems.”

In addition to plastic pollution, Canada’s failure to recycle plastics results in over 1.8 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases as more plastic is made to replace what is lost to landfills, incinerators, rivers, lakes and oceans, or what is shipped to unwitting developing nations.

Michelle Hall, head of the Surfrider Foundation’s Pacific Rim Chapter notes, “On December 22, 2018, Motion 151 passed unanimously in the House of Commons. It calls for, among other things, the regulation of single-use plastics, the development of a plan to clean-up derelict fishing gear and marine debris, and regulation to make companies making plastic products and using plastic packaging responsible for collection and recycling.”

 “The Canadian government has a powerful mandate from an overwhelming majority of Canadians to stop our plastic problem from being exported and to tackle it here and now,” she said.

Currently, 69 shipping containers of rotting waste loaded onto the M/V Bavaria at Subic Bay port in Manila is on a 20-day journey to Vancouver. The plastic waste shipment was sent to the Philippines on 2013 and 2014. The repatriation marked an end to the diplomatic row between the two countries that took off more than five years ago.

Waste from western countries has also turned parts of Southeast Asia into toxic dumping grounds—and governments have had enough, say several environmental organisations.

Malaysia declared on Tuesday 28 May that it was going to send back about 3,300 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic to its origin countries, including Australia, the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Bangladesh, and China.

Indonesian, and Vietnamese ports are also overcrowded with containers of rubbish from the west, say local media reports.

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