More plastic has been produced in the last 10 years than in the previous century

Plastic waste is collecting in our oceans and it is exponentially increasing at an alarming rate. Sadly there are no signs that the plastic problem is stopping. The world now produces more than 380 million tonnes of plastic every year, which could end up as pollutants, entering our natural environment and oceans. Half of this is plastic is designed for single-use only!

In order to rethink our own plastic lifestyle, we need to understand how pervasive the plastic problem is and how we have become blind to its over-use. From single use bags to cups, straws and lids, our use of plastic addiction is endless and quite often unnecessary.

The plastic problem in Canada

It is estimated that over 2.86-billion bags are used annually in Canada – 200 for every one of us! It takes 250 millilitres of petroleum oil and three litres of water to make a one single litre plastic water bottle.  And about 4,000 plastic water bottles are used every second! Single-use plastics have an average use span of only 12 minutes.

We must truly rethink our use of plastic. We need to ask ourselves whether the plastic we accept daily is destined for single-use and most importantly, is it absolutely essential that we accept it? We have made it our mission to inspire Canadians to rethink single-use plastics, end our acceptance of plastic as a risk-free material, and adapt to alternatives to single-use plastics.

Canada recycles just 9% of its plastics

According to a report produced by Deloitte for Environment and Climate Change, Canada recycles just 9% of its plastics with the rest dumped in landfill and incinerators or tossed away as litter. After 30 years of recycling programs that force residents to collect, wash and fill blue boxes with plastic bottles, bags and containers, it turns out that in 2016 more than 3.2 million metric tonnes ended up as garbage. Of that amount, 86% went to landfill, 4% to incinerators and 1% – 29,000 metric tonnes – ended up as litter which can contaminate lakes and oceans. Most of the wasted plastic comes from offices, institutions or industries. The majority of plastic waste is composed of packaging for consumer goods.

Why is a circular economy so important?

That recycling symbol has three arrows because there are three components of the recycling process: collecting material that can be recycled, processing those materials into something else, and then purchasing the goods made from recycled raw materials. All you do by sorting your recyclables is creating a supply of material. Purchasing items made out of those recyclables closes the loop on all that collected material. And you also create demand for more raw recyclables.

But the demand for recycled materials is low because it is simply cheaper to produce new raw materials. Regulatory changes in the recycling industry could help drive what is known as a “circular economy” by imposing restrictions on new materials that are created to help drive demand of existing recycled ones. A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their life. This means that plastic producers would be responsible for the recycling and reuse of materials displacing new plastics.

Source: The Waste and Resources Action Programme

As well as creating new opportunities for growth, a more circular economy will:

  • Help reduce waste
  • Help reduce the environmental impacts of our production and consumption
  • Drive greater resource productivity
  • Deliver a more competitive economy
  • Position Canada to better address emerging resource security/scarcity issues in the future

What can we do to help?

It’s quite simple: use less plastic.

Plastic is an incredibly versatile material that has benefited our society in many ways for decades, but now that we understand how the improper disposal of this material affects our fragile ecosystems in a significant way, we need to rethink our relationship with plastics and ban plastics that are toxic or hard to recycle.

We must collectively vote with our wallets and prevent companies from making unnecessary single-use plastics from virgin fossil resources, in addition to making the big plastic polluters responsible for cleaning up their own plastic mess.

Canada’s dirty dozen

Last year’s most collected items of litter on Canadian shorelines.

1. Tiny Plastic or Foam
2. Cigarette Butts
3. Plastic Beverage Bottles
4. Food Wrappers
5. Plastic Bottle Caps
6. Paper Materials
7. Plastic Bags
8. Miscellaneous Packaging
9. Straws & Stirrers
10. Foam materials
11. Beverage Cans
12. Rope (1 piece = 1 meter)