Ottawa aims to eliminate single-use plastics from federal operations

Canada’s environment and climate change minister has pledged to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics within the federal government.

Catherine McKenna made the announcement during the G7 ministers meeting in Halifax on Thursday. The meeting has focused heavily on finding ways to address plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

As part of Ottawa’s move toward zero plastic waste, McKenna said federal government operations will be reusing and recycling at least 75 per cent of all of its plastic garbage by 2030.

“We can’t just be talking about what everyone else needs to do. We need to be taking action,” McKenna said during a news conference.

Putting suppliers on notice

The effort means Ottawa will aim to eliminate plastic straws, cups, cutlery, packaging and bottles from its operations. It also includes using government purchasing power to lead change, said McKenna.

“I’m putting on notice all of our caterers, all of our hotels, those who we procure products from, the buildings we use — we are going to be looking at your operations, and we will be working with amazing suppliers who are committed also to the zero plastic waste vision.”

Zero-waste national strategy

McKenna said Canada also needs a zero-waste national strategy, something she hopes to discuss with her provincial and territorial counterparts at meetings this autumn.

“We have to do more. We have to do much more.”

The minister highlighted the efforts of cities such as Vancouver, St. John’s and Montreal, to eliminate the distribution of plastic shopping bags, stressing the need to move away from bags that “take five seconds to make” but can last “in our oceans for five centuries.”

McKenna said government will work with businesses, companies and NGOs to find solutions and innovative ways of dealing with plastic. That includes a partnership with the World Economic Forum.

“We see this as an opportunity also to highlight Canadian companies that are driving innovation, that are driving change and creating great jobs right here in Canada.”

‘Turn trash into cash’

In that vein, McKenna also announced a $12-million fund for plastic innovation.

‘It’s time to turn trash into cash.”

The fund will focus on the top four plastic-producing sectors: packing, building and construction, textiles and consumer products.

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