Where is plastic litter such as single-use straws coming from when littering in oceans and waterways is illegal in Canada?

Samantha Bayard, media relations spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada says that plastic waste found in the environment is often due to littering or "accidental indusrial discharges," but explained that plastic straws actually represent only a very small amount of all plastic waste.

About 0.1 per cent of plastic waste can be attributed to plastic straws. And while straws are a frequent find in shoreline clean-up efforts, they are not, in fact, the most persistent piece of litter.

According to the 2018 Dirty Dozen, a list of the most commonly found items from shoreline cleanups Canada-wide, straws ranked only ninth on the list. Cigarette butts ranked first, followed by items such as food wrappers, bottle caps, and plastic bags and bottles.

  1. Cigarette butts
  2. Tiny plastic or foam
  3. Food wrappers
  4. Bottle caps
  5. Paper materials
  6. Plastic bags
  7. Beverage cans
  8. Plastic bottles
  9. Straws
  10. Other packaging
  11. Foam
  12. Coffee cups

"Over the last 25 years, nearly 800,000 volunteers have removed over 1.3 million kilograms of trash from across Canada’s shorelines through the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program," Bayard said.

In September 2018, the Canadian Government announced that by 2030, at least 75 per cent of plastic waste from government operations.

One way this can be achieved is through the minimized use of single-use plastics in various facets. While this is commitment is commendable, Bayard says that the government also understands the necessity of single-use plastic items for reasons pertaining to accessibility, as well as health and safety operations.

"Reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives are not suitable in all cases," said Bayard. "[The government's] approach to reducing plastic waste will take into consideration health and accessibility needs. Alternatives that serve the accessibility and health needs of public servants will be provided where practical."

Further steps by the Government of Canada that include additional provisions to reduce Canada's plastic waste were announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. These steps will also support innovation and advocate for safe and affordable alternatives.

A Canada-wide Zero Plastic Waste Action Plan is also currently in its planning stages.