Alistair MacGregor column: Keeping plastic pollution out of our waters

Alistair MacGregor column: Keeping plastic pollution out of our waters

We have lacked a national policy to prevent plastics from entering our country’s waters

By Alistair MacGregor

Canada has one of the longest coastlines in the world. However, unlike many other developed nations, we have lacked a national policy to prevent plastics from entering our country’s waters, and we have no mechanisms in place to clean up the pollution that already exists.

Single-use plastics have become a part of everyday life, and 95 per cent of single-use plastics, such as coffee lids, plastic bags, and plastic drinking straws, are used once and discarded. For years individuals have ignored the flow of plastics into our oceans and waterways. Over time we have come to understand how damaging this is to the health and well-being of our wildlife, sensitive ecosystems, and communities. We have been warned that globally, if this practice goes unchanged, it is projected that by 2050 plastics in our oceans will outweigh fish.

I am proud to announce that on Dec. 5, 2018 my NDP colleague MP Gord Johns’ (Courtenay-Alberni) Private Member’s Motion to combat marine plastics pollution was passed unanimously in the House of Commons. All parties agreed we need to work together to create a national framework for the reduction and eventual elimination of plastic pollution in our aquatic environments.

MP Johns was inspired to act after the Hanjin Marine Debris Spill in November of 2016, when 35 shipping containers broke apart and washed up onto the beaches of the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was volunteers who were left to clean up the mess because of the legislative and regulatory void related to marine plastic pollution in Canada.

This incident drew attention to a problem that is much bigger than this one accident. In Canada, in 2014, it was estimated that only 11 per cent of plastic was recycled and that 8,000 kilograms of our own plastic waste ends up as marine litter every year. Globally, each year more than 20 million tons of debris enters the world’s oceans.

This motion promises to create a permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for community led clean-up projects. It will also reduce consumer and industrial use of single-use plastics. It will create a plan to clean-up derelict fishing gear, as well as promote education and outreach campaigns on the root causes and negative environmental effects of plastic pollution.

The motion draws from recommendations published by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre in 2017 and was supported by the Union of BC Municipalities, the Federation of BC Municipalities, and West Coast Environmental Law Association, among other organizations.

The unanimous passage of this motion is a tremendous victory for our oceans and coastal communities. I am proud Canada will finally be joining the 40 other counties around the world that have already created strategies to curb plastic use and protect our precious environment for future generations.

Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Newton’s first law of motion

I could have sworn I told them to help each other get unbuckled and to come inside.

Commercial property owners in Duncan will have an opportunity to beef up their security in 2021 with matching grants from the municipality. (File photo)
City of Duncan to help commercial properties increase security

Municipality to set up matching grant opportunities

John and Jeri Wyatt hope the upcoming North Cowichan public hearing will move things along toward exclusion of the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Input sought on Chemainus campground ALR exclusion at public hearing

Matter back on the agenda after a late reprieve in 2019 for Chemainus River Campground owners

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read