Today the Federal Government of Canada is expected to announce a new move to help protect the environment: a national ban on single-use plastic items, most of which are used in the foodservice sector. In doing so, Canada follows in the footsteps of other nations including the UK…
Environmentalists have been clamoring for such a ban for a couple of years, now, amid recurring warnings that single use plastics are turning our oceans into waste pits and endangering wildlife. Not only that, but we’ve been hearing a lot about microplastics – tiny specs of plastic shed by single-use plastic objects – which have apparently gotten onto our drinking water supplies and food chain, and could harm us directly. The latest report on microplastics says North Americans consume as many as 70,000 microplastic particles a year. These could trigger immune system effects or release toxic substances into our bodies. Research continues.
How bad is the plastics problem?
A dead sperm whale found off the coast of Sardinia just this past March 29 was found to have 22 kg / 48.5 lb. of assorted plastic garbage in its stomach. Humans who eat a lot of Fish are particularly at risk for consuming higher amounts of microplastics, which are filtered from the water by the feeding activities of aquatic creatures.
What’s being done?
In response to an increasing public outcry against single use plastics, Fast Food chains are moving to reduce or eliminate their use, and some governmental jurisdictions have already banned them outright.
Alas, the cleanup of all the plastic that’s already in our environment may take a couple of generations, even with increased efforts.
What Canada is doing
The Federal Government is planning to ban all single use plastic items. But it’s giving the plastics industry and its customers a buffer of sorts during which they can adjust to the new reality. The ban will be phase in over several years starting in 2021.
Replacements for Plastics
Paper drinking straws are a natural option to plastic ones, as are paper beverage cups, both of which can be recycled. But purveyors of menu items such as Milkshakes, smoothies and Cushed Ice treats say paper straws are not robust enough to handle their wares. Wooden stir sticks for Coffee service were widely used before plastics came along. But what about plastic eating utensils, plastic containers and other goods? The restaurant industry complains, paper- and fibre-based containers exist but they’re not suitable for moist foods or those with sauces, not to mention Soups. They get soggy pretty quickly and fall apart. And, as yet, there’s no such thing as a bio-degradable clear lid, something restos and diners now expect, as a result of their long experience with plastics.
Could be a silver lining
Solving the outstanding questions surrounding replacements for single-use plastics could prove to be a golden opportunity – for someone who invents a usable biodegradable alternative that does the required job. Many folks are reported to be experimenting and a few have actually proposed products using their new materials. But the user market has not beaten a path to their doors. There’s currently no telling when a suitable replacement for many single-use plastics will be found.
We can all do our part by recycling any and all plastics we use, and demanding that the joints we frequent switch over to non-plastic disposables ASAP.
~ Maggie J.