September 20, 2018 3:50 pm
Updated: September 20, 2018 5:23 pm

Canada looks at tackling global issue of plastic pollution in oceans

WATCH: G7 ministers from around the world are in Halifax for a meeting on the environment and energy. And as Alexa MacLean reports, one topic of widespread focus is the devastation plastic pollution is having on our oceans.

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The Canadian government has committed to banning the use of single-use plastic in government operations.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the announcement in Halifax on Thursday, as part of the G7 meeting on environment and energy.

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“We are going to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics throughout government operations. So, this includes straws, cutlery, packaging, cups, bottles but it also includes using our purchasing power to ensure that we lead change and we drive sustainable plastics innovation,” she said.

READ MORE: Plastic pollution crisis: How waste ends up in our oceans

She says the decision is part of Canada’s efforts to move towards a zero-plastic waste future.

“Our commitment is to collect, reuse or recycle, at least 75 per cent of all our plastic waste by 2030,” she said.

A large part of discussions on Thursday focused on the devastation plastic pollution is having on the world’s oceans.

“It takes about five seconds to make a plastic bag. We use them for about five minutes. [Then] they last in our environment, in our oceans, for five centuries,” said McKenna.

READ MORE: Halifax’s Tufts Cove ‘one of the dirtiest urban beaches I’ve encountered’

This June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Ocean Plastics Charter, a commitment to move towards the international sustainable management of plastics.

Five of the seven G7 nations signed. Japan and the United States didn’t.

“I think that it’s an opportunity for everyone to come together, to solve a challenge and also demonstrate the environment and economy go together,” said McKenna.

A $12-million fund to help find innovative ways to better manage plastic in Canada was also announced.

“So Canadians, we’re looking for your innovative ideas. Anything from edible plastic wrap to new technologies can help meet the needs of remote and northern communities to manage plastic waste,” McKenna said.

WATCH: Halifax councillor to push for reducing plastic straws in municipality

When it comes to the impact plastic waste is having on our oceans, one ocean conservationist says it’s important for government officials to come up with ways of combating the mismanagement of waste on land.

“The ocean generally is outside of the imagination of people because we live on land and we can’t see inside the ocean but the reality is that close to 80 per cent of waste that is mismanaged on land ends up in our ocean: through watersheds, through rain, through wind and just through dumping,” said Louie Porta, the vice-president of operations with Oceans North.

Porta went on to add that it’s important for the federal government to support waste management strategies for northern communities with limited resources.

“I hope that we prioritize action here at home and in particular recognize that many parts of our country are northern, rural, often Indigenous communities [that] do not have the same waste management systems that southern Canada does,” he said.

“And that as we highlight the importance of this issue nationally and globally, that we make sure we have unique investments to take care of our backyard first.

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