Jen­nifer Wells

StarMetro Calgary - - BIG OPINIONS -


En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna sounded as though she was ad­dress­ing a grade school class this past March in a video posted dur­ing the Econ­o­mist’s World Ocean Sum­mit.

“Did you know that by 2050 there could be more plas­tics in the ocean than fish? How gross is that!” Re­ally gross. In keep­ing with the theme of teach­able mo­ments, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment then had an op­por­tu­nity to take some small steps that would un­der­pin its fo­cus on ocean health with ac­tion.

Fol­low­ing the lead of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who an­nounced in April her gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to ban sin­gle-use plas­tic straws, drink stir­rers and plas­tic cot­ton buds, could have been one such move. May di­rectly called upon Com­mon­wealth lead­ers to join her in this cru­sade. Our own prime min­is­ter equiv­o­cated. “I know there will be a lot of in­ter­est in Prime Min­is­ter May’s pro­posal and I look for­ward to the dis­cus­sion at that time,” he said. (Why does the prime min­is­ter so fre­quently say so lit­tle?)

The G7 meet­ing is set for Charlevoix, Que., in early June. Im­prov­ing the health of the world’s oceans is a key­stone to those dis­cus­sions, along with ad­vanc­ing gen­der equal­ity and “growth that works for ev­ery­Crit­ics

ne.” Canada as­sumed the G7 pres­i­dency in Jan­uary and let’s pre­sume that at this point in his man­date Trudeau will want to move be­yond mus­ing and con­tem­pla­tion with that “Plas­tics Char­ter” his gov­ern­ment is tout­ing.

have picked apart May’s pro­posed plas­tic straw ban as a move of lit­tle con­se­quence and one for which the data is im­pre­cise. On the lat­ter point, the gov­ern­ment’s De­part­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs cited an im­pos­si­ble-to-con­firm an­nual U.K. garbage toss of 8.5 bil­lion sin­gle use straws, a fig­ure de­rived from fast food us­age.

Does the bot­tom line num­ber mat­ter all that much? Any­one watch­ing the daily Star­bucks pro­ces­sional of cof­fee cups trans­ported with plas­tic splash sticks or strawsip­ping con­sumers bear­ing their hazel­nut mocha co­conut milk mac­chi­atos knows the ob­vi­ous: ob­scene amounts of plas­tics are con­tribut­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment’s ill health.

France is just two years away from its ban on plas­tic cut­lery and cups, an­nounced in 2016. Star­bucks, which years ago pledged to make 100 per cent of its cof­fee cups reusable or re­cy­clable by 2015 — and then ceased to make men­tion of its com­mit­ment as the dead­line ap­proached — is only now com­ing back around to its en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity with a Nex­tGen Cup Chal­lenge fo­cused on di­vert­ing cof­fee cups from land­fills. In Bri­tain, the Costa Cof­fee chain re­cently pledged to re­cy­cle half a bil­lion cof­fee cups a year by 2020, strik­ing pri­vate con­tracts with those few re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties that can sep­a­rate a cof­fee cup’s wa­ter­proof lin­ing from its pa­per ex­te­rior, at least part of a fix for the es­ti­mated 2.5 bil­lion cof­fee cups that are garbaged each year in the U.K. In Jan­uary, Costa com­mit­ted to elim­i­nat­ing plas­tic straws from all its out­lets by year’s end.



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