Plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and bottles could soon be a thing of the past at events north of the border. Following in the footsteps of a global trend to reduce plastic waste, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada will ban many single-use plastics by 2021. The plan reflects similar legislation passed in the European Union and the United Kingdom last year and comes just days after Indian President Narendra Modi pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022.

The Environmental Impact

Canadians recycle less than 10 percent of their plastic, creating an environmental problem that, according to Trudeau, “we simply cannot ignore.” Unrecycled plastic ends up in landfills, rivers, on beaches and in the stomachs of animals. The 48 pounds of plastic found in the stomach of a whale that washed ashore in Italy in April provided a harsh glimpse into the real effects that plastic has on the environment, amplifying the call to global environmental action.

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Diminishing Dumping Grounds

Even recycled plastic is becoming a problem as countries in Asia refuse to become ‘dumping grounds’ for the waste of richer countries. Malaysia has become the latest in a series of countries refusing to accept high levels of plastic waste as an import for recycling. This May they sent 3,000 tons of plastic back to the countries it originated from when it was revealed that the trash has been imported illegally. The plastic was returned to 14 countries, including the United States and Canada. As it becomes harder for countries to dispose of waste, a focus on reducing the manufacturing of plastic becomes more appealing.

Trudeau said that his government will work with industry to “establish consistent standards for extended producer responsibility programs” and ensure that businesses become responsible for the plastics they are manufacturing and “putting out into the world.”  This will incentivize hotels, convention centers, restaurants, catering companies and various other industries to shift toward alternatives for single-use plastics.

Alternatives to Plastic

This plastic ban is likely just one in a series of legislative measures that will continue to sweep the globe. In the months leading up to 2021, companies must come up with alternatives to single-use plastic.

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Switching to sustainable practices will soon be legally enforced in Canada, however in a time where sustainability is widely considered an aspect of corporate social responsibility as well as trendy, companies and events could benefit by greener branding, even if it is not legally enforced. The opportunities are endless for caterers, event spaces and hotels to replace single-use plastic with chic, conversation-starting alternatives that guests and attendees are sure to notice and appreciate.

Use These Instead!

  • paper bags
  • bamboo straws and plates
  • metal cutlery
  • glass straws
  • china plates
  • edible straws
  • reusable coffee cups
  • water jug and paper cups