Here’s why Canada’s plastics ban is about more than litter

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Monday’s ban on certain single-use plastics is not simply about litter and air pollution, procuring baggage caught in bushes and microplastics floating within the ocean.

It’s additionally about limiting future demand for oil, say lecturers and researchers.

In the approaching years, because the world cuts again on fossil fuels for transportation, electrical energy technology and heating, the oil trade is pivoting to plastic manufacturing, in response to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA projects that plastics alone will account for a 3rd of the expansion in demand for oil by 2030, and virtually half by 2050.

Or as Judith Enck, president of the Vermont-based non-profit Beyond Plastics, places it: “Plastics is the Plan B for the fossil fuel industry.”

“Plastics have immense climate-change implications,” Enck mentioned. “By 2030, there will be more greenhouse gas emissions from plastics than from coal-fired power plants in the U.S.”

The federal government confirmed Monday it is going to ban the manufacturing and importation of plastic baggage and takeout containers by the top of this yr. By the top of subsequent yr, promoting them will probably be prohibited.

While some nations, and now Canada, are climbing aboard the plastic-reduction bandwagon, globally, use of plastics is nonetheless skyrocketing. Plastic manufacturing, which was 367 million metric tons in 2020, is forecast to triple by 2050.

“The petrochemical industry is investing billions in new plastic production facilities to meet this demand,” mentioned Enck, who is additionally a visiting professor of environmental coverage at Bennington College.

With these projections in thoughts, banning plastics could possibly be a manner for governments to restrict future makes use of for oil.

“Carbon is one of the issues we were trying to get at — not the only one,” mentioned Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault. In addition to lowering plastic air pollution in our pure atmosphere, Ottawa’s measures are additionally projected to cut back greenhouse gasoline emissions by 1.8 megatonnes by 2030, he mentioned.

The rules nonetheless fall far in need of what’s required to deal with the plastics drawback, mentioned Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics marketing campaign at Greenpeace Canada.

“It’s not going to have a significant impact on the amount of plastic that’s produced and consumed in Canada,” as a result of the ban covers much less than 5 per cent of the plastic we use, she mentioned.

“It’s clear the government wasn’t coming out of the gate from a position of meaningful reduction,” King mentioned. “It’s more of: ‘Where do we start to address some concerns while not really making any significant change?’ ”

The plastics ban was additionally criticized as ineffective by trade, which says what’s actually wanted is funding in recycling.

Elena Mantagaris, vice-president of plastics on the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, defended the carbon footprint of plastics, saying they’re more sustainable than metallic and glass, that are heavier and create more emissions to move.

“Plastics, even if you put all of it in landfill, have a better environmental lifecycle assessment than many of the alternatives,” she mentioned. “And there’s an even greater advantage with recycled plastics.”

Tony Walker, a researcher who research plastic air pollution at Dalhousie University, dismisses that argument as “reverse psychology” by the plastics trade.

“They say paper causes more emissions than plastic because it’s heavier. But they only look at transportation and use,” he mentioned. “They ignore the fact that their own petroleum products will most likely end up in landfill or be exported to countries where they’ll be incinerated — releasing carbon emissions either way.”

People don’t typically understand that plastics are “petrol hydrocarbons in physical form,” mentioned Walker, and that we use a lot plastic that it now accounts for six per cent of world oil manufacturing.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, plastics are produced from pure gasoline, byproducts of pure gasoline processing and crude oil refining.

“It is a massive emitter of greenhouse gasses,” Walker mentioned, each from manufacturing and disposal.

Canada’s ban is available in a yr after the EU enacted the same legislation, prohibiting an extended checklist of single-use plastics together with Q-tips and styrofoam plates and cups. Nevertheless, Enck was impressed with the federal ban in Canada, saying the one motion being taken to restrict plastics within the U.S. is on the state and native stage.

“I like that the policy doesn’t fall for the misleading narrative that we can recycle our way out of the plastics crisis,” she mentioned. “It’s just not true.”

enterprise/2022/05/14/little-green-lies-we-fill-our-blue-boxes-with-plastic-but-hardly-any-gets-recycled-will-fords-new-system-change-that.html”>Only 5 to 6 per cent of plastics are recycled and the remainder are launched into the atmosphere by litter, landfill or incineration, she mentioned.

“Don’t fall for the recycling lie. Reducing our use of plastics is the way to go.”

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