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Ottawa’s plastic ban may actually hurt the environment

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5 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

” a market research firm, found that in New Jersey… “non-woven polypropylene… consumes over 15 times more plastic and generates more than five times the amount of GHG emissions during production per bag than polyethylene plastic bags.” In other words, the ban helped increase pollution. “

Despite a court ruling late last year, which deemed the Trudeau government ban on single-use plastic (cutlery, straws, grocery bags, etc.) “unreasonable and unconstitutional,” the ban essentially remains in place pending appeal or further regulatory action. But according to the government’s own data and analysis, plastic waste is a virtual non-issue in Canada, as 99 per cent of all plastic waste is disposed of safely in landfills or is incinerated. And less than 1 per cent of Canada’s plastic waste finds its way into the environment.

Moreover, there’s great potential for people to replace banned plastic items, including plastic grocery bags, with other plastic bags not included in the ban such as heavy gauge “reusable” shopping totes and other types of plastic trash bags made of heavier-gauge plastics than the filmy bags banned from grocery stores.

In New Jersey, for example, while plastic grocery bag use did decline following a statewide ban in 2022, plastic substitute materials skyrocketed, plastic consumption rose threefold for heavier reusable bags and sixfold for woven and non-woven polypropylene bags, which are not produced domestically, not recycled nor do they contain recycled content. Freedonia, a market research firm, found that in New Jersey “increased consumption of polypropylene bags” contributed to a “500% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to non-woven polypropylene bag production” and that “non-woven polypropylene… consumes over 15 times more plastic and generates more than five times the amount of GHG emissions during production per bag than polyethylene plastic bags.” In other words, the ban helped increase pollution.

In California, an environmental interest group called CALPIRG recently issued a report generally favouring plastic bag bans, observing that they do indeed reduce the use of banned bags. However, the report notes that “loopholes,” which allow consumers to use heavier plastic bag alternatives, results in more plastic consumption and waste—not less. According to CALPIRG, plastic bag disposal rates increased in one jurisdiction (Alameda) from 157,000 tons in the year before the ban on single-use grocery bags to 231,000 tons in 2021. On a per-person basis, it rose from 4.1 tons disposed of per 100,000 people to 5.9 tons disposed of per 100,000 over that same span.

In both New Jersey and California, efforts are underway to “fix” the loopholes that have allowed proliferation of plastic consumption and waste in the wake of plastic bag bans. However, these actions are unlikely to work unless they can somehow stop consumers from simply switching to plastic garbage bags or buying online heavier-gauge plastic shopping totes (and trashing them after a few shopping trips). Consumers have already shown they’re prepared to do these things.

Here at home, there’s no reason to believe that Canadian consumers will react any differently to a ban on single-use plastics. Canadians are just as likely to reach for the convenient substitute, whether that’s heavier paper products or heavier plastic products not covered under existing bans.

If sanity reigned, Canada would get ahead of the perverse consequences likely to flow from plastic bans by scrapping the entire idea and allowing consumers to consume what they believe best suits their lives and pocketbooks. Canada already has an admirable waste management system that keeps 99 per cent of disposed plastics safely locked away in environmentally protective landfills or eliminates them completely through incineration.

There’s no need for plastic bans or a governmental takeover of the plastics sector via regulation. Government should throw these bans in the bin.

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Economy

Feds spend $3 million to fly 182 politicians and bureaucrats to climate conference

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Ryan Thorpe 

Feds trip to COP28 in Dubai cost $3 million

The cost for Canada to send hundreds of people to COP28 in Dubai has doubled, rising to nearly $3 million, according to government records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Included in those costs is $1.3 million the federal government dished out to host a “Canada Pavilion” at the summit, which featured a rapper performing a song on “climate disinformation,” while giving a shoutout to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“Nothing screams fighting climate change like flying around the world burning through jet fuel and millions of tax dollars,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Here’s a crazy idea: maybe the feds don’t need to spend $3 million flying 182 politicians and bureaucrats to Dubai.”

The federal government paid for at least 182 people to go to COP28, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A previous report from the National Post pegged the cost for Canada’s delegation at $1.4 million.

But the bill now sits at $2,954,188, including $825,466 for transportation, $472,570 for accommodations and $295,455 for meals and incidentals, according to the records.

The records indicate the cost could rise even higher, as certain invoices and travel claims “have yet to be processed.”

Costs included $1.3 million for a “Canada Pavilion” to “showcase the breadth of Canadian climate leadership.”

At the Canada Pavilion, a Canadian rapper known as Baba Brinkman – the son of Liberal MP Joyce Murray – performed a rap on “climate disinformation.”

“Climate disinformation, get that immunization, the vaccine for bad meme infiltration,” Brinkman rapped. “Climate misinformation, it leads to polarization, which leads to radical conspiracy ideation.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault also received a shoutout during Brinkman’s rap.

“Really? Hosting a rapper half-way around the world to drop rhymes at a government podium will help the environment?” Terrazzano said.

The records were released in response to an order paper question from Conservative MP Dan Mazier (Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa).

Most of the hotel expenses came from the Dubai Marriott and the Premier Inn at the Dubai Investment Park, with rooms coming in between $150 and $400 per night.

The most expensive digs was a $816-per-night suite at the Pullman Dubai Jumeriah Lakes Towers, a “five-star hotel offering upscale accommodations.”

The Canadian delegation also handed out $650 worth of gifts during the trip.

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Business

Ottawa should end war on plastics for sake of the environment

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives…

For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

It’s been known for years that efforts to ban plastic products—and encourage people to use alternatives such as paper, metal or glass—can backfire. By banning plastic waste and plastic products, governments lead consumers to switch to substitutes, but those substitutes, mainly bulkier and heavier paper-based products, mean more waste to manage.

Now a new study by Fanran Meng of the University of Sheffield drives the point home—plastic substitutes are not inherently better for the environment. Meng uses comprehensive life-cycle analysis to understand how plastic substitutes increase or decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by assessing the GHG emissions of 16 uses of plastics in five major plastic-using sectors: packaging, building and construction, automotive, textiles and consumer durables. These plastics, according to Meng, account for about 90 per cent of global plastic volume.

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives. Read that again. When considering 90 per cent of global plastic use, alternatives to plastic lead to greater GHG emissions than the plastic products they displace. For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

A few substitutions were GHG neutral, such as swapping plastic drinking cups and milk containers with paper alternatives. But overall, in the 13 uses where a plastic product has lower emissions than its non-plastic alternatives, the GHG emission impact is between 10 per cent and 90 per cent lower than the next-best alternatives.

Meng concludes that “Across most applications, simply switching from plastics to currently available non-plastic alternatives is not a viable solution for reducing GHG emissions. Therefore, care should be taken when formulating policies or interventions to reduce plastic demand that they result in the removal of the plastics from use rather than a switch to an alternative material” adding that “applying material substitution strategies to plastics never really makes sense.” Instead, Meng suggests that policies encouraging re-use of plastic products would more effectively reduce GHG emissions associated with plastics, which, globally, are responsible for 4.5 per cent of global emissions.

The Meng study should drive the last nail into the coffin of the war on plastics. This study shows that encouraging substitutes for plastic—a key element of the Trudeau government’s climate plan—will lead to higher GHG emissions than sticking with plastics, making it more difficult to achieve the government’s goal of making Canada a “net-zero” emitter of GHG by 2050.

Clearly, the Trudeau government should end its misguided campaign against plastic products, “single use” or otherwise. According to the evidence, plastic bans and substitution policies not only deprive Canadians of products they value (and in many cases, products that protect human health), they are bad for the environment and bad for the climate. The government should encourage Canadians to reuse their plastic products rather than replace them.

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