The oceans are a sea of plastic and marine life is dying. Some of the worst plastic pollution piles up along the west coast of Vancouver Island and groups volunteering to clean up can’t keep up.

“We’re in a crisis right now. And we’re not treating it like a crisis,” said Chloé Dubois, president of The Ocean Legacy Foundation.

Her group has joined 11 other environmental organizations in Canada calling on the federal government to list plastics as a toxic substance. That would enable the government to pass laws to force plastics producers to collect and recycle plastics and to prevent the export of plastic waste to other countries.

“Plastic pollution is a solid form oil spill,” Dubois explained.

“Developing countries no longer want our recyclables. The no longer want our waste and we can do better,” said federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna while speaking in Vancouver on May 28.

The environmental groups hope that politicians are listening. So do Canadians who are concerned about it.

“We need to do something and we need to do something big,” said Erin, a mother pushing her stroller along West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park.

“Canadians are recognizing there is an issue there is a problem,” said research Sylvain Charlebois of Agri -food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

Charlebois and his team recently surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians and discovered that about 94 per cent are motivated to do something about plastic waste. However, only about 56 per cent are committed to shop for food that isn’t packaged in plastic. And 75 per cent of those surveyed want some form of compensation or incentives to seek alternatives.

“It’s fewer than 17 per cent of Canadians that are willing to pay for an improvement of some sort,” said Charlebois.

New food safety regulations are also a problem. Charlebois said food safety issues have contributed to an increased use of plastic.

“Canadians don’t appreciate how their expectations of the food industry, actually has had a huge impact on the use of plastics. We should think about harmonizing our food safety regulations with our environmental obligations,” explained Charlebois.

“Canada still needs to step up and create legislation and mitigate plastic pollution in our own borders,” added Dubois.

The industry is also motivated to do its part. 

"This study confirms Canadians and Canada’s food and household product manufacturers agree plastic should be kept out of the environment, no matter how many times a package is used," said  Michael Graydon, Food and Products of Canada CEO. 

The federal goverment is expected to make an annoucement about the circular economy towards the end of June with some kind of national action plan to tackle the issue.  

Also, the Plastics Free World conference takes place in Frankfurt, Germany on June 27 to for more discussion on ways to solve the problem.

“I want my world to be around for my kids if that means having a higher tax or having single use plastics be banned, then that’s the solution,” said Erin before she continued her stroll along the sea path.