Ottawa takes ‘plastics’ policy to the extreme

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Appeared in the Toronto Sun, September 7, 2022
Ottawa takes ‘plastics’ policy to the extreme

Eat with your fingers, cretin! I’m paraphrasing, but not by much, from the Trudeau government’s new Guidance for Selecting Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics. Yes, your government has offered detailed advice about alternatives to all kinds of single-use plastics it’s banned as part of its zero-plastic waste 2050 campaign.

For example, on single-use plastic bags, the federal department in charge (Environment and Climate Change Canada) wants Canadians to use one “reusable bin made of rigid plastic”—also known as a bucket—to carry their groceries home from market. The government will also generously let you use an old carboard box at the end of its useful lifecycle instead (no, still not joking). Perhaps you can bring an old wooden pole to balance two buckets across your shoulders as you walk the groceries home in the snow. You could also use an alternative bag instead of the bucket, so long as it matches the specifications in a separate 25-page specification document for single-use plastic alternatives. But wait, it gets better.

You wish to eat with a fork or cutlery? The government says this is not needed for the masses. “Businesses should consider giving customers the option to specify whether they require single-use cutlery at all. Businesses could also consider providing more meal options that do not require the use of cutlery (e.g., wraps and sandwiches).”

Yes, it’s sandwiches and wraps for you. But if you must eat something requiring some kind of scooping implement, the government will allow the use of a shaped stick. “When single-use cutlery is required, alternative materials are available (for example, pressed and moulded fibre, bamboo, wood).” And that’s locally sourced wood, raised sustainably, thank you very much. And charge you a fee for those. (And no, still not kidding—that’s actually in the guidelines.)

But this might be my favourite, call it the Canadian Tupperware™ Act of 2022. Should you still, at this point, wish to acquire food that might require containment and transport in a vessel from its point of purchase to the place where it’s stuffed into your face, the government will allow purchasers to “bring their own containers or [for food-sellers] developing a deposit and refund system for reusable containers are options that would reduce the amount of single-use plastic food packaging and foodservice ware. Reusable alternatives to single-use plastic food-service ware include containers made of glass, stainless steel, silicone or rigid recyclable plastic.” But of course, these materials too must comply with the guidelines mentioned above. Nothing must be unregulated or unspecified.

Eat with your fingers. Carry your food in your reusable food bucket, itself stuffed full of glass jars or steel bowls, to where you can later shovel your food into your mouth with what is basically a stick. This is the federal government’s vision for the people.

With Canada’s new guidance for alternatives to single-use plastics, Canada may have reached peak plastic policy. As I detailed in a policy study earlier this year, the net-zero plastic waste agenda will likely cause economic harm, consumer-choice degradation and environmental and health “backlash” that leaves us all worse off and with a dirtier environment.

Clearly, it’s time to stick a fork in this foolish policy. Zero out the zero-plastic-waste insanity.

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