Single Use Plastics
Along with many other environmental advocacy organizations Waste Watch Ottawa is concerned about the proliferation of single use and non-recyclable plastic packaging and products. Governments at all levels need to take steps to address the environmental concerns associated with run- away production and use of plastics.
WWO supports actions to restrict the use of single use plastics and supports the development of a circular economy that will ensure that materials are not discarded but are recovered and reused as replacements for virgin plastic resins. We cannot however recycle our way out of the problem and although small steps are being taken much more needs to be done.
Mandating levels of recycled plastics content in packaging and products as the federal government is promising to do is one additional way that we can wage the war on plastic waste.
On June 20, 2022 Environment and Climate Change Canada published final regulations to prohibit single-use plastics in Canada including:
- checkout bags,
- foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics that are hard to recycle,
- ring carriers for cans,
- stir sticks, and
- straws (with some exceptions)
The ban on the manufacture and import of these harmful single-use plastics, barring a few targeted exceptions to recognize specific cases, will come into effect in December 2022. The ECCC news release states that the regulations will provide businesses in Canada with time to transition and to deplete their existing stocks, the sale of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023. The Government will also prohibit the export of plastics in the six categories by the end of 2025.
Read more about the ban in the media…
Single Use Plastic Bags in the Ottawa Green Bin
WWO opposed the 2018 Council decision to permit plastic bag liners and dog waste in the green bin. The additions create unnecessary problems for the green bin program and downgrade the quality of the compost that is produced. Plastic bags create operational challenges and have to be removed at the composting facility.
You can never remove 100% of the bags and the resulting shredded plastic persists forever. Compost that is produced from Ottawa green bin organics waste and which contains micro plastics can end up applied to land as provincially designated “non-agricultural source material”. Micro plastics are a well -recognized global pollution problem that harms many creatures – earthworms and sea life alike. The city has also produced no evidence that plastic bag liners help to improve participation.
City reports state that in January 2021 that plastics of more than 2.8 mm in size – the compost quality standard – represented 0.11 % by weight of the compost produced at the plant. This sounds like a small number but over the total 85,000 tonnes of organics delivered it could translate to approximately 90 tonnes of plastic bits in the completed compost. Looked at another way, and using US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weight to volume estimates, this 90 tonnes is equivalent to around 5,500 cu yds of loose plastic HDPE film, grocery and garbage bags. This suggests that there is a serious problem with compost quality in Ottawa.
Dog waste will exacerbate the plastic bag problem and will create an odour problem at the composting plant that requires significant capital investment and management to address.
At a time when broadly based efforts by governments, the public and businesses are being made to eliminate the use of single use plastics The City of Ottawa is explicitly promoting and encouraging their use.