Editorial: Tackling the plastics threat

The plastic waste problem is so huge, Victoria’s efforts to limit single-use plastics are like spitting on a forest fire, so why bother?

Because, even though it is following in Vancouver council’s footsteps, which has voted to ban plastic drinking straws and foam containers, Victoria can show leadership in this urgent issue that threatens the health of the planet and all its living creatures. Victoria was ahead of the pack with its progressive measures to limit public smoking; it can do the same with plastics.

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The city has already passed a bylaw banning plastic bags. Now it is looking at banning plastic straws, plastic-foam food containers and other single-use items.

As Joe Schwarcz and Alexandra Pires-Ménard of McGill University write: “Plastics are the fabric of modern life.” That’s a quiet understatement — plastics are part of almost everything we do and use. They have brought much convenience to our lives.

But that convenience comes at a huge price: Plastic pollution is everywhere on the planet, even 11 kilometres down in the deepest part of the ocean. We can easily see plastic bags snagged on bushes or floating on the water, but a graver threat comes from pollution we cannot see. Small organisms, thinking they are finding food, consume microscopic plastic particles that permeate the ocean. Thus, they starve to death with full stomachs or introduce those particles, and the dangerous chemicals that cling to them, into the food chain.

More than half of the nine billion tonnes of plastic produced since 1950 has not been recycled or incinerated, and litters our land and our oceans.

The straw that breaks the camel’s back might well be a plastic drinking straw.

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