Plastics bans, environmental monitoring get brief shrift throughout pandemic

A shopper leaves a grocery store carrying his groceries in plastic bags Tuesday, August 30, 2016 in Brossard, Que. In mid January the British Columbia government announced it was looking at a province-wide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags to put an end to a piece-meal, city-by-city approach to the problem of plastic pollution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A consumer leaves a grocery retailer carrying his groceries in plastic baggage Tuesday, August 30, 2016 in Brossard, Que. In mid January the British Columbia authorities introduced it was a province-wide ban on single-use plastic grocery baggage to place an finish to a piece-meal, city-by-city method to the issue of plastic air pollution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson


OTTAWA – In mid January the British Columbia authorities introduced it was a large ban on single-use plastic grocery baggage to place an finish to a piecemeal, city-by-city method to the issue of plastic air pollution.

Ten weeks later, the province’s chief public well being officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, issued steerage saying the precise reverse. Shops had been to supply clear carry-out baggage, she instructed retailers on March 30, because the province was closing in on 1,000 optimistic circumstances of COVID-19.

“Clients mustn’t use their very own containers, reusable baggage or containers,” reads the written instruction.


It was however one signal that environmental insurance policies had been to be among the many first issues forged apart or suspended because the COVID-19 pandemic descended on Canada.

Concern of contamination from reused packaging and the necessity to function with decreased workers and with fewer interactions between individuals, prompted retailers to bar reusable packaging, from baggage to espresso cups. Eating places had been compelled to go to a take-out solely mannequin, pushing the necessity for plastic and Styrofoam containers by way of the roof.

And as using plastic containers went up, some cities had been compelled to chop again, and even cancel outright, municipal recycling applications.


Final week Calgary suspended blue-bin operations completely due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the metropolis’s recycling plant. Edmonton has mentioned about one-quarter of what it collects from blue bins goes to the landfill now as a result of it do not have the workers to deal with all the fabric. In japanese Ontario, Quinte Waste Options, which gives recycling to 9 municipalities, suspended assortment of most hazardous and digital waste for correct disposal. In Nova Scotia, a number of recycling depots had been closed.

Alberta’s Vitality Regulator has suspended virtually all environmental monitoring necessities for the power sector, together with soil, water and air air pollution. Initially simply relevant to some oilsands operations, on Wednesday the regulator expanded the exemption for your complete power sector, saying it was not secure to take action with the specter of COVID-19.

In early April, Ontario handed a regulation beneath its Surroundings Invoice of Rights that suspends the requirement for a 30-day session with the general public on any coverage that impacts water, air, land or wildlife. The federal government cited the necessity to have the ability to reply shortly to COVID-19 as the explanation, though the requirement was not lifted just for any COVID-19 insurance policies, however for something.


Environmental Defence government director Tim Grey mentioned governments that had been already much less inclined to care a lot in regards to the setting are abandoning insurance policies the quickest, however there are additionally delays to promised protections due to COVID-19 that would grow to be a longer-term downside.

Federal Surroundings Minister Jonathan Wilkinson mentioned final week the federal government stays dedicated to its climate-change and plastics ban plans, however that some insurance policies are being delayed a bit due to the virus.

“My concern is that this may go on for thus lengthy it’ll push it thus far down the highway it could possibly’t get achieved earlier than one other election,” mentioned Grey.


He mentioned choices to droop plastic-bag bans are a “panicked response” that will cool as extra data and science is known in regards to the virus. Simply this week, the Facilities for Illness Management in the USA modified its wording about how the virus is transmitted to say it doesn’t unfold simply from touching contaminated surfaces.

Canada’s deputy public well being chief Dr. Howard Njoo mentioned Friday rigorous and frequent hand washing and never touching your face with out washing your fingers will stop any virus you might have picked up in your fingers from making you sick.

The plastics business has seen an uptick in demand within the midst of the virus, mentioned Bob Masterson, the president of the Chemistry Business Affiliation of Canada.


“What I might say has modified is individuals, because of COVID, have a a lot better appreciation of the advantage of plastic as a sanitary materials for the meals business,” he mentioned.

Shops throughout the nation rushed to wrap their checkout counters with plastic shields and equip their workers with plastic gloves and face shields. Demand for hand sanitizer — largely bottled in plastic — soared.

John Thayer, a senior vice-president at petrochemical producer Nova Chemical compounds, mentioned whereas some orders had been cancelled due to COVID-19, demand has elevated for plastics used to make meals packaging, e-commerce packaging and delivery necessities and medical packaging and protecting tools. All the things from face masks to surgical robes to ventilators, take a look at tubes and COVID-19 testing kits, use plastic.


“Polyethylene and different polymers are serving to stop COVID-19 transmission and deal with these impacted by the virus,” mentioned Thayer.

Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics program at Greenpeace Canada, disputes that plastics are safer as a way to guard shoppers. She mentioned plastics have a spot within the medical world however research have proven the virus truly lives longer on plastic than another materials.

A material bag that’s washed recurrently is much less more likely to be contaminated than a plastic one, she mentioned.


“There’s lots of misinformation about plastics as a wholesome various,” mentioned King.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Might 23, 2020.