Canada is set to ban single-use plastics in 2021 in an effort to reduce ocean waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
Canada will ban single-use plastics from 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced, declaring it a "global challenge" to phase out the plastic bags, straws and cutlery clogging the world's oceans.
Mr Trudeau said Canada has a unique chance to lead the fight against plastic pollution as the country with the world's longest coastlines.
"I am very pleased to announce that as early as 2021, Canada will ban harmful, single-use plastics from coast to coast," Mr Trudeau said.
Less than 10 per cent of plastics used in Canada are recycled, he said.
Each year a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals worldwide suffer injury or death by becoming entangled in plastic or ingesting it through the food chain.
Single-use items represent some 70 per cent of the plastic waste littering the marine environment.
"You've all heard the stories and seen the photos. And to be honest, as a dad it is tough trying to explain this to my kids," Mr Trudeau said.
"How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?"
"How do I tell them that against all odds, you will find plastic at the very deepest point of the Pacific Ocean?"
"People around the world are grappling with this every day," Mr Trudeau said.
"As parents, we're at a point where we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn't littered with straws, styrofoam or bottles."
Straws, plastic bags, cutlery, plates and stir sticks would be among the items banned, a government statement said. The list will be refined based on further scientific research between now and 2021.
Mr Trudeau said producers of other plastics, such as bottles or food packaging, will be held responsible for "the entire life-cycle" of their products and will have to provide recycling plans.
The situation in other countries, including in Australia
Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Italy, along with the European Union, subscribed to a new charter against pollution in the world's oceans, at last year's G7 summit in Quebec.
The United States and Japan did not join the pact.
The non-binding Ocean Plastics Charter called on participating countries and the EU to commit to making all plastics reusable, recyclable or recovered by 2030.
A total of 21 governments have by now taken that pledge, Mr Trudeau said. In addition, the EU earlier this year passed legislation this year to ban single-use plastic products starting in 2021.
In Australia, Hobart has become the first capital city set to ban single-use plastics, including takeaway food containers and straws.
In March this year, City of Hobart councillors voted in favour of a by-law to support the ban and impose fines on those that don't comply.
The law will not come into effect until late this year or early 2020.
In the ACT, there is a proposal to ban a range of single-use plastics, as the territory tries to step up its efforts to reduce landfill.
Eight years ago, the ACT banned single-use plastic shopping bags – and now the territory is taking aim at a range of other single-use plastics.
South Australia is also considering a ban on single-use plastics.
A national solution for Canada
Several Canadian cities already ban the use of plastic bags, Montreal passed its ban last year, and some provinces have banned other products.
But Trudeau said a "national solution" was needed.
"Every year, Canadians throw away over three million tons of plastic waste," the prime minister said in a statement. "This represents up to $8 billion per year in lost value and wastes valuable resources and energy."
Recycling, he said, would not only cut down on pollution but would help produce 42,000 jobs in the recycling and recovery businesses.
The environment is shaping up as a key issue in Canadian legislative elections set for October, with Trudeau's main challenger vowing if he wins to roll back environmental protections, including a federal carbon tax and a tanker traffic ban along a pristine part of the Pacific coast.
And while Trudeau has declared it a top priority, a recent parliamentary report concluded Canada is doing too little to combat climate change, even as government scientists warned the country was warming at twice the global rate.