Welcome to your (sort-of) post-plastic future

By the end of this year, plastic straws are set to officially become a relic of the past. 

Driving the news: A national rollout of eco-friendly stir sticks, cutlery, takeout containers, plastic grocery bags, and straws is well underway, but the transition has been rocky… 

  • Businesses are shouldering steep costs. Switching from traditional plastic to rice straws or wooden spoons has left small businesses with unexpected expenses.

  • Shoppers are drowning in reusable stuff. One man estimates he’s acquired over 300 reusable Walmart bags, thanks to grocery deliveries over a six-month period.  

  • Reusable options can fall short. You have to reuse a container between 16 to 208 times for its environmental impact to equal that of a single-use Styrofoam container.

Why it matters: As problems caused by plastic waste increase, the world has little choice but to move away from single-use plastics. While the shift to reusable products will require patience, trial, and error, the idea is that once demand increases, costs will drop, businesses will create return schemes, and other common-sense tweaks will make everything smoother. 

  • Some cities, like Calgary, will also have to upgrade their composting facilities to be able to accept reusable, compostable products, instead of sending them to a landfill.  

Zoom out: Canada’s single-use plastics ban is in line with how the rest of the world is moving. Over 100 countries have full or partial bans on single-use plastic bags, with varying degrees of enforcement, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and India.—SB