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Cities, countries and regions aim to reduce plastic waste in a decade

Today, plastic is a favorite of societies all over the world. Like some love stories, the end of this one is not happy. Plastic bags, straws, and takeout containers litter the world’s environment.

Researchers who study plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife would like to see a world where, by 2030, we don’t hear about plastics in the stomachs of dead animals or the littering of beaches on distant islands.

Plastic is not allowed on the beach. Shutterstock

There is good news to share about the environment. Stories about how cities, countries, and children can have safer beaches and manage plastics and waste more sustainably are all welcome.

No need to wait

Scientists have been aware of the plastic pollution in oceans for more than 40 years. Plastic pollution is also found in rivers, soils, and lakes. Plastic pollution has no borders. Tiny bits of plastic can be found everywhere, from the equator up to the poles.

Plastic waste is harmful to ecosystems. It smothers coral reefs and fills sea creatures’ bellies. The amount of plastic waste generated globally between 2015 and 2020 is expected to triple.

Read more: Microplastics have even been blown into a remote corner of the Pyrenees.

As a welcome response, global leaders have decided to act. At the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, environment ministers from around the world signed a voluntary commitment to make measurable reductions in single-use plastic products, including straws, shopping bags, and other low-value plastic items that are sent to landfill after being used once.

Municipal, provincial, federal, and regional governments around the world have adopted similar goals to combat plastic pollution. Non-profit groups and industry leaders are working to combat plastic pollution. Ocean Conservation, for example, is uniting citizens, organizations, and governments around the globe in cleaning up to reach their goal of a plastic-free ocean by 2030. Unilever, on the other hand, has committed to using 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025.

Canada joined the movement.

Canada presented the Ocean Plastics Charter to the G7 summit of 2018 and committed nations to work together with industry to make plastics recyclable, reusable, or recoverable by 2030. This means that no plastics will be sent to landfill.

Vancouver wants to become a waste-free city by 2040. The city has decreased the amount of waste that goes to landfills by 23 percent since 2008. However, there is still a long way to go.

Ontario is also working to eliminate waste by developing a Circular Economy. This means keeping materials as long as they can be used. By 2030, the province wants to reduce waste in landfills by half, or 4.5 million tonnes. This will be achieved through reuse and recycle.

Read more: Beyond our oceans: Microplastics pollute rivers and lakes, too.

To propel Ontario into action, Ian Arthur, the member of the Ontario provincial parliament for Kingston and the Islands, introduced a private member’s bill in March to eliminate Ontario’s use of non-recyclable single-use plastic products such as straws, coffee cups, and plastic cutlery, which ultimately end up in landfills. These plastics do not feed into a circular economy.

Students in Ontario also aim to collect 10,000 signatures on petitions that ban single-use plastics.

Canadians want to see more action taken against plastic waste. According to a recent poll, 90 percent of Canadians are either very or somewhat concerned with the environmental impact of waste plastic. And 82 percent think that government should do more about reducing plastic waste.

Bye-bye, plastic waste

Researchers have found that microplastics and small plastic pieces contaminate the Great Lakes as well as the Arctic Ocean.

To achieve these goals, ambitious global, regional, and locally-based collaborations are needed. It’s time for us to end our love affair with plastic disposables.

Individual action does work. Use a reusable cup to satisfy your caffeine craving. Refillable bottles are a great way to hydrate with water. Buy groceries in containers that are recyclable or reusable. Avoid single-use disposable plastics at your child’s birthday and work meetings.

After a decade of good habits, plastic will no longer be considered waste but a material that can be recycled and reused. This paradigm shift could last well beyond 2030.

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Jane S. King

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