Plastic pollution is so prevalent that it has been called a “planetary crisis”. It is entering our environment, littering our communities, and ending up in our oceans at a rate of a garbage truck a minute.Turtles are choking on plastic bags, microplastics are seeping into our seafood and drinking water, and if we don’t do something to cut down our plastic garbage, by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
Billions of single-use, throwaway plastic packaged products and disposable plastic items are produced, used and become trash every year in Canada. Only about 10-12% is actually recycled. The rest goes to landfill, is burned or ends up in the environment. The Canadian government notes that in 2010, Canada released 8000 tons of plastic waste into the oceans from land, contributing up to 12.7 million tons entering the oceans globally each year.
On World Cleanup Day Saturday, September 15th, Greenpeace Canada and Ecology Action Centre added an extra investigative component to their cleanup event by conducting Plastic Polluters Brand Audits. These audits identify the major corporate contributors to plastic waste polluting shorelines, green spaces and communities.
According to what we found in the five brand audits held in Canada, Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo., The Coca-Cola Company, and McDonald’s Corporation were the most frequent multinational brands collected in cleanups, in that order. Globally, three of the same companies made the top 5, with The Coca-Cola Company named as the top polluter, followed by PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, and Mondelez International. The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Nestlé (in this order) accounted for 64% of the branded plastic trash that was identified across North America. And then there is Tim Hortons with its throwaway coffee cups found everywhere.
Greenpeace Canada’s Oceans & Plastics spokesperson Brigid Rowan underlined that the Canadian government and corporations need to go beyond half-measures and putting the onus on individuals to clean up corporate waste: “You can’t stop an overflowing bathtub by mopping up the water with cotton balls, you need to the turn the tap off. Plastic pollution is no different – we need to stop it at the source. Corporations push mass production and consumption of throwaway, single-use plastic products, leaving little alternative for consumers. We all suffer from plastic pollution in our communities and green spaces, but corporations have created the problem. Our Plastic Polluters Brand Audits help shine a light on the companies responsible for much of the problem and is a reminder to governments who must be held accountable.”
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) must be prioritized in national and international policy; no longer can the majority of the responsibility be placed on the consumer or the recycling industry – if you make it, you recycle it. We must stop the waste where it originates.
Take action now to urge the federal government to move away from false solutions and to take a common sense approach by getting at the root cause of the plastics problem.
- Click on the poster to see a larger image, and learn about the top five Plastic Polluting corporations in Canada
- Sign the Petition: Go to www.act.gp/PlasticPolluters
- Scroll down to see a sample letter to send to the Federal Minister of the Environment, which you can copy to your MP.
Below is a sample letter – be sure to sign your name and address and send a copy to your MP.
Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Dear Minister McKenna,
Thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the national public consultation on plastics. I urge Canada to go beyond voluntary requirements. Canada needs strong action to reduce plastics at the source, hold corporations accountable and invest in truly sustainable solutions.
Considering the gravity of this problem, a national strategy needs to focus on a phase out of single-use, throwaway plasticsthat we’ve seen various jurisdictions begin to eliminate with positive results for their waste streams and environments. We simply cannot continue to allow the production of billions of throwaway plastic products that are wreaking havoc on ecosystems and our communities.
It’s crystal clear that we cannot recycle our way out of this problem. In Canada only ~10-12% of plastics have been recycled and history has shown that recycling is not adequate enough to prevent plastic waste from clogging waste management systems, littering communities, entering our environment and choking our oceans. Increasing recycled content and improving recycling systems more broadly should be seen only as an interim measure as we work to phase-out single use plastics entirely.
The Canadian government is in a unique position where it can shift the narrative for real protection and become a world leader in ocean protection and plastic reduction.
I would like to see Canada:
– legislate reduction targets for companies to phase-out the production of polluting single-use plastics;
– Implement strong extended producer responsibility requirements so that the companies producing this waste are held fully accountable for the full lifecycle of their products;
– invest in delivery systems centered on reuse and new and innovative alternative product distribution models, that are sustainable and socially responsible.
We know now, more than we ever have, about how plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on our environment To address this crisis, we need to slam on the breaks and take a sharp turn away from our throwaway culture towards sustainable and reusable packaging and product delivery systems.
Copy to: MP