Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year – and increasingly, this is being recognized as one of the main pollution threats to marine life. Canadians remove over 100,000 kilograms of trash that accumulates on shorelines during annual clean-ups. But these don’t address the root problem of plastics reduction. Canada needs binding legal solutions to prevent and mitigate plastic pollution.

Plastic enters the ocean from many different sources, primarily on land, which complicates the process of regulating the problem. Enforcement is also a big issue, because polluters do not take responsibility for marine debris, and have little incentive to prevent or remove it.

What we need are laws and regulations that reduce how much plastic we produce and improve how plastic waste is managed, so that less of it ends up in the ocean. Many jurisdictions are taking first steps by banning single-use plastic items, such as laws restricting the use of plastic bags, cups, and straws.

West Coast, along with numerous environmental and civil society groups, is pushing the federal government on its Moving Canada Toward Zero Plastic Waste program, asking for a comprehensive strategy involving provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous governments to develop policies that keep plastics out of the environment.

An international plastic pollution treaty is another important legal tool that could be used to help tackle our global plastic problem.

We are working for strong policies at all levels of government to hold producers responsible, keep harmful plastics out of the natural environment, and improve the reuse and recycling of plastic products. With clear, enforceable rules that focus on reducing plastics at the source, we can stem the accumulation of marine debris in the ocean and shrink the pile-up on shorelines in the coming years.


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Photo credit: Regan Walsh