Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday the federal government's intention to ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021.
Speaking at a nature reserve in Mont St-Hilaire, south of Montreal, Trudeau said the specifics of the ban still need to be worked out. He said Ottawa will conduct research to determine a course of action grounded in science.
"A real solution needs to be nationwide — we need to cover all of Canada with this decision — and that's why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021," he said.
He said companies that produce plastics or use them in packaging will be responsible for the collection and recycling of the waste.
"Whether we're talking about plastic bottles or cell phones, it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they're manufacturing and putting out into the world," Trudeau said.
He said the situation of plastic overflowing in landfills and polluting oceans and waterways has reached a breaking point, and action is needed.
"As parents, we're at a point where we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn't littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles," he said. "That's a problem, one that we have to do something about."
Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled, and without any change in habits, Canadians will be throwing out $11 billion worth of plastic products by 2030.
The products targeted could include such single-use items as drinking straws, water bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, stir sticks and fast food containers.
At the last G7 summit, Canada and four other leading economies signed a charter pledging that by 2040 all plastic produced in their countries would be reused, recycled or burned to produce energy. (The United States and Japan stayed out.)
The federal government intends to work with provinces, territories and municipalities to set standards for companies that sell such products.
Similar announcements are being made today by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Toronto and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in British Columbia.