According to a Toronto-based initiative, Canadians use 57 million straws every single day. Let that sink in. If we’re not reusing these plastic straws – which most of us aren’t – all 57 million of those straws are going in a landfill. Every day. Just in Canada. Then each of those tiny plastic tubes takes about 500 years to decompose. At that rate, it’s a miracle we’re not already living in the garbage world from Wall-E.
Vancouver is the first Canadian city to do something concrete to avoid that Pixar prophecy. On Wednesday, the city council voted to ban plastic straws and other one-use containers like plastic and Styrofoam cups and takeout containers by June 1, 2019.
The move is the first action on the city’s new Zero Waste 2040 Strategic Plan. The plan’s main goal is to shift the way the city considers waste when creating policy and putting it in action. The most effective method of limiting landfill waste is not creating the material in the first place. This long-term plan hopefully means that the waste products that normally end up in landfills will instead be reused, repurposed, recycled, composted, converted to fuel, repaired, refurbished or just not produced at all.
This evening Vancouver became the first city in the world to approve a comprehensive zero waste strategic plan: the Zero Waste 2040 Strategic Plan. We also adopted the Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy as an early action to take us closer to #ZeroWaste. #ReduceSingleUse pic.twitter.com/VmnGGGP4Do
— City of Vancouver (@CityofVancouver) May 17, 2018
For the moment, coffee cups and plastic bags will still be acceptable in Vancouver while the municipality works with local and small businesses to create alternative solutions. One idea that has been proposed is a city-wide container-sharing program that would work like a bike-share, but with reusable hard plastic takeout containers. A ban on plastic bags and coffee cups will come into effect farther into the Zero Waste plan in 2021.
In April, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced Britain’s own “national plan of action” which would see the eradication of plastic waste by the year 2042. She also called upon other Commonwealth countries, Canada included, to instigate their own bans and waste-reduction plans.
When asked if he would act on May’s challenge, Justin Trudeau declined to answer the question specifically and said he would talk to other G7 leaders about it. It seems that leaves provinces, cities and individual businesses responsible for any kind of shift in the near future.
A number of U.S. cities including Seattle, Miami Beach and Malibu have already banned plastic straws, opting instead to use biodegradable paper ones. The Last Straw in Toronto is a local campaign started to encourage businesses in the city to instigate their own company bans on straws. Vancouver is the first Canadian city to approve actual legislation.