Canadians are heavily in favour of a ban on single-use plastics such as cutlery and straws, and most would be willing to pay a small premium for environmentally sustainable products, a new Nanos Research survey has found.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced a plan to regulate plastic waste as part of a national strategy to limit the amount of plastics that are polluting Canada’s environment.
Mr. Trudeau has said that the government would consider banning a number of products as early as 2021, including plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks, where supported by scientific data. It’s a measure environmental advocates have been urging in an effort to combat plastic pollution, but it hasn’t been without controversy as the plastics industry pushes back.
Fifty-six per cent of Canadians support a total ban on single-use plastics, while 25 per cent somewhat support a ban, according to Nanos Research. Ten per cent of Canadians somewhat oppose a total ban, while 8 per cent are opposed and 1 per cent are unsure.
Across the country, residents of British Columbia are most likely to support the ban, with 65 per cent saying they are in favour, while residents of the Prairie provinces are less likely to back it, but still their support remains at 47 per cent.
In the Atlantic provinces, 59 per cent of residents support a ban on plastics, 60 per cent of Quebec residents support a ban, while 54 per cent of Ontario residents are supportive.
The figures come on the heels of B.C.’s highest court striking down a Victoria bylaw banning single-use plastics, ruling that such a ban is beyond the city’s jurisdiction.
The Canadian Plastic Bag Association, which has challenged plastics bans in other cities, filed a lawsuit after Victoria city council voted to ban plastic bags. The B.C. Court of Appeal issued a unanimous ruling on Thursday that further demonstrated the industry’s eagerness to challenge local plastics bans.
The Nanos poll also shows that most Canadians are willing to pay a premium for more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic – but not very much, and some are not willing to pay at all.
The poll shows that 31 per cent of Canadians said they would pay 5 per cent more, 21 per cent said they would pay 2 per cent more and 19 per cent said they would be willing to pay 1 per cent more. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians surveyed said they would not be willing to pay more.
“I think the key take-away is that there’s broad support for a ban on single-use plastic basically across the country,” pollster Nik Nanos said. “However, when we get into paying a premium or paying more on items – although it’s still a majority – there’s a significant proportion of Canadians that outright don’t want to pay more, which is about one out of every four.”
Vito Buonsante, the plastics program manager for Environmental Defence, said there is no doubt that people believe a ban on plastic has to be part of the solution to battling pollution.
“It really confirms that view, that people want action and even very radical action,” he said, adding, “I think bans are great. They’re not the only solution, [but] we need to rethink our relationship with plastic.”
Nanos Research randomly surveyed 1,000 Canadians,18 years or older; participants were recruited by live agents by phone, both landline and cell, and a survey was administered online. The margin of error for the random survey is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The survey was commissioned by The Globe and Mail.