Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
Canada will enact a ban on single-use plastics by 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.
"Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste," Trudeau said in a statement. "We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come."
According to the press release, Canada recycles less than 10% of its plastics and is on track to throw away an estimated $8 billion worth of plastics annually by 2030. The new measures will target "harmful" single-use plastics (including bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers) while establishing extended producer responsibility for plastic waste — leading to a potential reduction of 1.8 million metric tons of carbon pollution, billions of dollars in revenue and approximately 42,000 new jobs.
Canada joins a growing list of countries that have enacted similar policies — including members of the European Union, which voted earlier this year to ban about a dozen plastic items. Canada's new measure, the statement asserts, will align with actions being taken in the EU and around the world.
The ban, according to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, was spurred by ballooning public awareness of plastic pollution's implications.
"We've all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales, and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans. Canadians expect us to act," Mckenna said in a statement. "Taking these steps will help create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and make our economy even stronger — while protecting fish, whales, and other wildlife, and preserving the places we love."
Trade groups Canadian Plastics Industry Association and Chemistry Industry Association of Canada endorsed the government's stance against plastic pollution — with reservations.
"We would only caution government not to pre-determine the outcome and consider impacts throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and their alternatives," they noted in a joint statement. "Any rush to judgment could have serious implications on industry's ability to create a circular economy for plastics that supports a national zero plastic waste strategy. "
The global plastics backlash hasn't gone unnoticed south of the Canadian border. U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Senator Tom Udall urged President Trump last week to develop a federal strategy on plastic waste, citing its "growing financial burden on state agencies, local governments and taxpayers for remediation."
"We believe that a well-coordinated and well-funded interagency research plan, coupled with robust investments in our response programs, is essential to address the domestic and global plastic pollution crisis at both a human health level and at an ocean conservation level," they wrote in a June 5 letter.
"Many citizens strongly support recycling, but plastics recycling is not a realistic solution to the plastic pollution crisis," they added. "The economic reality is that most waste plastic does not have sufficient value to drive reclaiming it."
AROUND THE WORLD
Report identifies plastic pollution "hotspots" in the Mediterranean — World Wide Fund for Nature
According to a new World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, nearly one-third of the Mediterranean's plastic waste is mismanaged.
The region, currently the world's fourth largest producer of plastic goods, generates 24 million metric tons of plastic waste annually — only 72% of which ends up in a controlled system. The rest — which either remains uncollected or gets tossed in illegal landfills and open dumps — most likely makes its way into rivers and, eventually, the ocean.
The report highlights nine coastal "hotspots" of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean — including Barcelona (which leaked approximately 26.1 kg of plastic per person in 2016), Tel Aviv (21.0), Po Delta (18.2) and Valencia (12.9). Egypt was identified as the Mediterranean's largest source of plastic waste, followed by Turkey.
"Our analysis shows that in all Mediterranean countries plastic pollution is the result of failures across the entire plastic life cycle, including production, consumption, waste management, and secondary markets for recycled material," the report concludes. "Therefore action must be taken at all levels to ensure zero leakage of plastic into nature."
Indonesia to return illegal plastic waste shipments — ANTARA News
Malaysia made headlines last month when it announced its intent to return 3,300 tons of contaminated plastic scrap imports — and it appears that Indonesia is now following suit.
"The waste that enters Indonesia, which has plastic, is definitely not legal," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said Monday, following news of illegal plastic waste imports to Gresik, East Java. "And basically the provisions are there, therefore we will perform a re-export."
In the wake of China's scrap import ban, Indonesia became a global hub for plastic scrap shipments. Central Statistics Agency data showed a 141% increase in plastic scrap imports to Indonesia in 2018 — a spike that, according to GAIA field investigations, has wrought devastating environmental, public health and societal consequences.
Steps for returning the contaminated scrap shipments are currently being discussed. According to Indonesian Center for Environmental Law researcher Fajri Fadillah, existing rules regarding imported waste must be properly monitored and enforced.
"The government needs to re-evaluate companies that have plastic and paper scrap import licenses, to learn whether they are acting in accordance with licensing, and whether their practices pollute the environment," he said.
SEEN & HEARD
I have a chapter on Waste Regulation in the ~new and shiny~ Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Law, w @GAVClaw !— Natalie Jones (@nataliejon_es) June 3, 2019
A couple thoughts.
1) Comparing how countries regulate their rubbish (through, e.g. statute law) hasn't really been done before... (1/5) pic.twitter.com/Sv8gc731Mm
As @MaxLiboiron summarizes, plastics is *plural* and care is needed moving forward. Not all plastic is alike and single-use products have an important role in accessibility https://t.co/X77nqlMYyU pic.twitter.com/VG6YbdLUEd— Scott Lougheed (@ScottIsLoud) June 11, 2019
On the menu for breakfast this morning! pic.twitter.com/92Pq1ZvYsJ— Kate O'Neill (@kmoneill2530) June 12, 2019