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Canada's single-use plastic ban: Sales of bags, takeout containers, cutlery set to end

As of December 2023, the federal government will no longer allow the sale of plastic bags and takeout containers as part of a move towards a full ban on certain single-use plastics in Canada.

The sale of plastic cutlery and stir sticks will also be prohibited at that time. Plastic flexible straws are also included, although there will be exceptions for people with disabilities.

Companies will have to stop making and importing bags, food containers, cutlery, stir sticks, and straws by December of 2022.

Plastic six-pack rings are also being targeted, but their sale won’t be banned until June 2024, to account for retooling manufacturing lines. It’s the same plan for flexible straws packaged with drink containers, such as juice boxes.

By Dec. 20, 2025, the export of all these six single-use plastic items will also be banned.


The federal government estimates over the next 10 years, the ban will result in the elimination of more than 1.3 million tonnes of plastic waste that is hard to recycle, and more than 22,000 tonnes of plastic pollution.

"It’s a first step towards zero plastic waste," said Anthony Merante, plastics campaigner with the conservation group Oceana Canada.

"It is six common single-use plastic items that wash up on our beaches, that are in our oceans, that put our sea life at risk. Only eight per cent of plastic waste is recycled in Canada. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem."

Director of the UBC Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Rashid Sumaila, said he thinks the government is taking the right steps, although the problem is a lot larger.

“I think it’s a good start, but it’s only a start,” he said. “There’s a lot more. This is a fraction of what happens with plastic around.”

Sumaila said it’s also an opportunity for innovation: a chance to create substitutes to counter the plastic pollution that permeates the environment.

“They end up in the ocean. They break down into microplastic, and they live forever,” he said. “This national effort I think will give us more motivation, more push to really move forward.” 

Merante said Canada is really "catching up" with other jurisdictions which already have targeted single-use regulations, such as the European Union, Chile, and Mexico.

"Single-use has only existed since the 70s and 80s, so it’s not a century-long problem that we need to try and unlearn," he said. "A national ban like this actually forces the market to have more options for us."

Vancouver moved ahead with a ban of single-use plastic bags on January 1 of this year. Businesses must charge a minimum fee of 15 cents for paper bags, which will increase to 25 cents in 2023. Disposable coffee cups also come with a 25 cent fee.

Merante said his organization would like to see disposable coffee cups added to the "next iteration" of Canada’s ban.

"The minister has said that they open to reassessing, re-evaluating and expanding this ban in future," he said.

"When you think about climate change, when you think about the plastic pollution crisis, it seems like it is a mountain that you’ll never get to the top of, but if anyone’s ever been out on a hike – you just need to start walking, one foot in front of the other."

The federal government said up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year in Canada, and single-use plastics make up most of the plastic litter found on shorelines in our country.

This is a developing story. More to come. Top Stories

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