This article was created in partnership with the National Geographic Society.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that in addition to banning single-use plastics, his government would take other, unspecified steps to reduce plastic pollution.
Trudeau did not specify the products to be banned, but said likely candidates include plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks “where supported by scientific evidence and warranted.”
“You’ve all heard the stories and seen the photos,” he said. “To be honest, as a dad it is tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches across the world, their stomachs jam packed with plastic bags?
"How do I tell them that against all odds, you will find plastic at the very deepest point in the Pacific Ocean?”
Canada, which has 151,019 miles of coastline–the world’s longest–and a quarter of the world’s fresh water, joins a growing list of nations taking steps to reduce the use of disposable plastics. More than 60 nations have taken steps to reduce single-use plastics by imposing bans or taxes, according to a United Nations report published last year.
In March the European Union’s parliament voted to ban the top 10 single-use plastic items found on European beaches by 2021. The EU measure also calls for 90 percent of plastic bottles to be recycled by 2025. Member states must work out the details of bans before the 2021 deadline.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who was overwhelmingly reelected last month to a second five-year term, declared in 2018 that India would eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022, an ambitious plan for the world’s second most populated country.
China, the world’s most populous nation, moved to curb its plastic pollution when it stopped buying plastic waste from the rest of the world. Closing the door to other nations upended the global recycling market.
Trudeau made his announcement at the Gault Nature Reserve outside Montreal. He noted that Canada recycles less than 10 percent of its disposable plastics, and is on track to throw away $11 billion worth of disposable plastic by 2030 unless things change.
He said the federal government will work with provinces and territories to introduce standards and targets for plastics manufacturers and retailers so they become more responsible for their plastic waste. Trudeau said he also supports efforts by Canada’s minister of environment to create a nationwide strategy for zero plastic waste.
“This will be a big step but we know we can do this for 2021,” Trudeau said.
National Geographic is committed to reducing plastics pollution. Learn more about our non-profit activities at natgeo.org/plastics. This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.