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Sarah King

Head of Oceans & Plastics, Greenpeace Canada

Whether you’re for or against ditching single-use plastics, it’s hard not to acknowledge that plastic has invaded every facet of our lives. Our food is wrapped in it, our clothes are made of it, and our homes are full of it. It’s been found in drinking water, salt, beer, food, and even the air we breathe. Plastic is flooding our communities, polluting nature, killing wildlife, and contributing to the climate crisis. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Thousands of people around the world are charting a course toward a future that’s free from problematic plastic — it is possible.

First and foremost, it’s not all on individuals to live a plastic-free life. In our current system, that’s impossible for many Canadians who don’t have access to food, necessities, and other goods with plastic-free alternatives. But it’s on all of us to do our part to help cut our cumulative plastic footprint and support a much-needed transition to more sustainable alternatives. So bring your own bags, bottles, and containers and shop bulk and packaging-free as much as possible, but also use your voice to remind companies producing and offering the products in the first place that it’s up to them to rethink and redesign our shopping and dining experiences, and to help create product delivery and service models that are plastic-free and accessible. 

Bring your own bags, bottles, and containers and shop bulk and packaging-free as much as possible.

What does this look like? A reuse revolution. Alternatives to single-use plastics centered on the concept of reuse are already all around us. From the bulk section of our grocery store to fountain drink dispensers to the unwrapped produce at local farmers’ markets, we interact with plastic-free, refill models every day without even realizing it. But we need some tweaking and scaling up to facilitate better product delivery options to the masses. It’s happening, and possible, we just need more of it.

We need to say no to false solutions. A paper or bio-based disposable alternative to plastic keeps us in our throwaway model that isn’t working. And the idea that we can keep producing plastic through chemical recycling and improved mechanical recycling, somehow getting from 9 percent recycling rates to some reasonable number, doesn’t get to the heart of the issue — too much plastic is produced and if we can’t control where it goes now, how will we ever control it with global production set to increase 40 percent over the next decade? It’s impossible.

Above all, we need to cut plastic production and consumption, and immediately say goodbye to all non-essential plastics. We can’t undo the damage done by the plastic era, but we can look to a future where we agree our blue planet is not single-use.

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