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The Canadian government has published finalized regulations prohibiting six types of single-use plastic, including shopping bags, cutlery, take-out containers, ring carriers, stir sticks, and with some exceptions, drinking straws. The ban follows the country’s significant change to the Canada Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) last year, which classified plastics as legally toxic.

The new regulations will be phased in over time, beginning with the ban on the importation and manufacturing of single-use plastic in December 2022, followed by the prohibition of sales by December 2023, giving businesses time to transition and run through existing stock. Finally, the exportation of single-use plastics, with some exceptions, such as flexible plastic straws used for people with disabilities, goes into effect in December 2025.

“We promised Canadians we would deliver a ban on single-use plastics. Today, that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in an announcement. “By the end of the year, you won’t be able to manufacture or import these harmful plastics. After that, businesses will begin offering the sustainable solutions Canadians want, whether that’s paper straws or reusable bags. With these new regulations, we’re taking a historic step forward in reducing plastic pollution and keeping our communities and the places we love clean.”

“We are focused on protecting the health of those who live in Canada while improving our environment,” added Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, in the same announcement. “We know that plastic pollution can be found in outdoor air, food, and drinking water, so by addressing this, we will improve health outcomes for all Canadians. These new regulations mark a turning point for Canada. We are taking strong action to protect the environment, creating cleaner and healthier communities across the country.”

While single-use shopping bags made the cut in the new ban on plastics, there are a few notable carve-outs for similar single-use plastic items that are notoriously difficult to recycle, such as produce bags and dry cleaner bags.

Paper-based cups with plastic liners are exempt from the new prohibition, provided they do not contain carbon black, expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene foam, PVC, or oxo-degradable plastics.

Single-use ring carriers made of rigid plastic, such as those that snap onto the top of cans, are also exempt from the new single-use plastic prohibition. Canada’s new regulations target carriers with flexible pieces that fit around the collars and ringed carriers.

Canada’s ban on plastic straws includes exceptions and provisions that address accessibility and health care needs for the drinking device. Hospitals, hospices, and other health care facilities are exempt, while restaurants are not. Retailers may sell 20-packs of single-use straws but must keep them away from customer view and may only provide them upon request, and no proof of disability is required.

By 2030, the Canadian government estimates that this move toward a more circular plastic economy will reduce carbon emissions by 1.8 metric tons, the equivalent of 387,845 gasoline-powered cars driven in a year, according to the US EPA emissions calculator. Additionally, Canada estimates this circular plastic economy will generate 42,000 new jobs and billions in revenue.

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