Terrace resident Ben Korving was in Ottawa Feb. 20 to watch as his idea to end the use of single-use plastics in Canada was presented as a bill to the House of Commons.
Korving’s proposal won Skeen-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s Create Your Canada contest in November, which gave a riding resident an opportunity to see their ideas turned into a private member’s bill and possibly passed into law.
MP Nathan Cullen brought Bill C-429, the Zero Waste Packaging Act, for first reading to the House of Commons Wednesday, and spoke about the initiative with Korving and Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns to media stationed outside.
“What his legislation does is end the use of single-use plastics in Canada, making sure all that all plastics that we consume as consumers, as citizens, has to be compostable or truly recyclable,” Cullen says.
This means everything manufactured in Canada must prove to be recyclable or compostable, putting more responsibility on the producers to reduce the waste they generate instead of the consumers. If passed, the bill would amend the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act and come into force a year after receiving Royal Assent.
“We know the facts — our oceans are filling up with plastic, our landfills, too. As much as almost 90 per cent of all plastics that we put in our blue boxes doesn’t end up getting recycled but ends up in the landfill,” Cullen says.
In December, parliamentarians passed motion M-151, A National Strategy to Combat Plastic Pollution, unanimously to develop a plan of action to combat single-use plastic pollution. Korving’s bill would build on that, Johns says.
“This bill that Benjamin has put forward is actually building on that motion and putting it into legislation so we can take real action instead of more voluntary targets which the Liberal government keeps announcing,” Johns said while holding a Tim Hortons cup and plastic water bottles at the press gathering.
The bill notes that while Canada led the creation of the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter committing to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastics by 2030 but there is a lack of federal legislation in support of this waste reduction target.
“We want to take real, important concrete steps so we can make sure every bit of plastic that we’re using can be recycled,” Johns says.
Korving also spoke about the initiative with his son while in Ottawa.
“I came up with this idea because I believe that product packaging is over the top right now and Canada really has a chance to stand up to the plate on the world stage, join the ranks of the European Union and move forward in that regard,” Korving says. “I think most Canadians are ready for some change.”
Plastic pollution has certainly been on the minds of many Terrace residents, even if the City of Terrace isn’t quite there yet.
On Feb. 1, Leticia Kistamas asked Terrace city council to implement a phased-in ban of single-use plastics city-wide.
Even though one of the objectives in the city’s Official Community Plan is to review the viability of a municipal ban on plastic bags, the city chose to refer the issue over to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, which handles waste and recyclables in the region, to coordinate because they are “in a better position to roll it out.”
Speaking Thurs. Feb 21, Cullen declined to comment specifically on the city’s decision to refer the single—use plastics matter to the regional district now that both Kistamas and Horving are Terrace residents advocating for change.
Local governments don’t often have the resources to deal with the myriad types of plastics now in use, he said.
“We’ve got to go upstream to the manufacturers,” Cullen says.
He did say many local governments in the riding support the bill inspired by Horving but didn’t know if Terrace was on the list.
Private member’s bills rarely become an Act of Parliament although Cullen did introduce one in 2015 to ban oil tankers from the north coast, something that did take place in 2017 when the federal government introduced its own legislation.
Cullen said the Zero Waste Packaging Act bill and the Create Your Canada program were enthusiastically received by MPs from all parties.
Now that the bill has been tabled, the next step is to have it given second reading followed by a vote and if it passes it will head to the standing environment committee for detailed study.
Provided the bill comes out of the committee, it is sent back to the House of Commons for a third a final reading and if successful, is then sent to the Senate for its consideration. If that is successful, Royal Assent then follows.
Citizens who want to support the Zero Waste Packaging Act can add their signature to the bill online.