On Monday, June 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a big announcement.
"As early as 2021" the Canadian government is planning to "ban harmful single-use plastics from coast to coast to coast."
It's no secret that plastic waste is a big issue, especially in our oceans and waterways. And while the world is full of awareness campaigns and innovative solutions to our plastic problem, the best way to turn the tide is to not use the stuff.
This sounds like what Trudeau is aiming for. And it is, but... his announcement was also pretty vague. So what is the prime minster really promising? Let's breakdown a plan that is going to be talked about a lot in the next while.
What will it effect?
Here's what Trudeau said about what will be banned: "Our approach, including determining which products fall under the ban, will be grounded in scientific evidence and closely mirror the actions taken by the European Union (EU) and like-minded countries."
So let's start there: What does the EU's ban cover?
Back in March 2019, the EU voted to ban single-use plastics by 2021 including: cutlery, plates, straws, foam takeout containers and cups, and drink stirrers. Non-banned single-use products that contain plastic (like wet wipes) would have to be redesigned or labelled to warn consumers that they can be harmful to the environment.
Trudeau says that he and his government are still researching their own exact list, but it will likely be similar to the EU's. Reports say that plastic bags will also likely be on the Canadian banned list.
What about bottles?
When you see a list of harmful plastic waste, bottles are often near the top. So why aren't they on the list above? They do not appear to be part of the direct ban, but Trudeau did mention a plan for them.
"Whether we're talking about plastic bottles or cellphones," he said, "it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they're manufacturing and putting out into the world."
In a nutshell, it means that many companies (such as those that make beverages, electronics, food, and toys) will need to ensure that the plastic they use is recycled properly. This could be similar to how beer bottles and cans have been returned for reuse and recycling for decades.
When will it happen?
2021, right? Except... Trudeau said "as early as 2021." So while it could happen as soon as then, it could take longer.
Laws such as this take time to research fully, and then more time to pass. Trudeau is giving the government a year-and-a-half at least to get it right. And depending on different pressures and developments between now and then, the timing and content of the ban could easily change. Especially because...
Will it happen?
...there's an election coming! Monday, October 21, Canada is having a federal election. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has already said that Trudeau is only talking about this ban to try and win over voters.
Of course, politicians do do stuff like that. But there's good reason to believe that Trudeau is serious. According to polls, a majority of Canadians say that plastic waste is either a top concern or one of many — there's a lot of public support for a ban. But there will be powerful resistance, too, especially from businesses that need to change how they operate.
Also what happens if Trudeau's Liberals lose the election? NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says they want to do their own version of a ban, so it would likely continue under them. If Conservatives win, however, this ban may not happen at all.
Key battle in October
In the end, this plastics ban is likely to be a big issue in this election. Along with Trudeau's carbon tax, many Canadians are going to be asked to make a decision about how they would like to see the country adjust to fighting climate change.