Top offenders

Our love affair with single-use plastics

Single-use plastics and other “avoidable plastics” are an enormous source of preventable plastic pollution.

These are the plastic items and packaging intended to be used just once, then discarded. Examples include plastic bags, straws, wet wipes, water bottles, take-out containers, cutlery, and food wrappers. And let’s not forget the millions of different types of plastic packaging wrapped around nearly every item we use (even disposable cutlery often comes wrapped in plastic).

The Top Five

The following five single-use plastics are the most commonly found products and packaging littering the North American coastline.

  • Food wrappers
  • Bottle caps
  • Beverage bottles
  • Plastic bags
  • Straws and stir sticks

In 2017, researchers from 11 organizations across the United States collectively released the Better Alternatives Now List 2.0 (or B.A.N. List), a two-year study identifying the top plastic products and packaging polluting American watersheds. In Canada, data on the most commonly found shoreline litter, including plastic, is collected annually as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a partnership between World Wildlife Federation and Ocean Wise. The plastic products above topped both lists.

Ways to change

By planning ahead and making small adjustments to our existing habits, we can reduce or eliminate single-use plastics without affecting our standard of living. Businesses can also help by changing the composition of products and packaging, and by reimagining products and services to make them less dependent on single-use plastics.

  • Whenever possible, refuse single-use plastics
  • Ask the businesses you frequent to provide plastic-free options to make saying no to plastics even easier
  • Choose products that use less plastic in their packaging and/or contain less plastic
  • Check out the many Solutions and Alternatives that will help Canadians make 10,000 changes