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How We Can Join Forces to End Polystyrene Pollution for Cleaner Oceans

Photo by Jen Steele

Surfrider Foundation Canada’s mission is the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, beaches and waves, for all people.

While there have been significant strides to address single-use plastic pollution in Canada in recent years, such as from plastic bags, straws, and food packaging, several important categories of plastic pollution are still an ongoing issue with little to no regulation. 

For example, expanded and extruded polystyrene (EPS and XPS) is one of the most significant sources of plastic pollution in Canada’s aquatic environments. Based on our shoreline cleanups, EPS and XPS comprise up to 50 to 70 per cent of the material we collect by volume. This pollution is not an accident like a shipping spill or plastic leakage from ineffective waste management systems. Rather, it’s intentionally used for 80 per cent of floatation in British Columbia, including docks, rafts, and buoys. This material is also used in infrastructure on the east coast of Canada, as well as in freshwater ecosystems across the country. Despite the severe impact of polystyrene on aquatic ecosystems, Canada’s National Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste omits this priority pollutant. Meanwhile, single-use plastics that the federal government have banned represent around three per cent of plastic waste in Canada.

Taking action

To address this, Rachel Blaney introduced Motion-80 in March of 2023. This motion calls for a ban on the use of EPS and XPS in the construction of floating structures in the aquatic environment, encased or not. It also urges the federal government to establish an action plan to phases out all legacy EPS and XPS floating structures across all aquatic environments in Canada. The strength of the motion is based on the fact that there are sustainable alternatives to polystyrene manufactured here in Canada. For example, air-filled flotation devices that replace EPS and XPS create sustainable, safer floating structures.

To support getting polystyrene banned from Canadian aquatic infrastructure, you can email your Member of Parliament and Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, with one click.

To learn more about the polystyrene pollution crisis, visit bcstyropollution.org.

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