Every year in Canada, three million tonnes of plastic waste is thrown out, 86% of which ends up in landfills and continues to have a harmful impact for hundreds of years. The world depends on single-use plastic (SUP) as an affordable and durable material, using it in every aspect of our lives despite the detrimental impact. While there have been efforts in recent years to restrict plastic use and replace them with alternatives, the problem is much more complex than that.
The system map shows the value of SUP items compared to plant-based single-use items and reusable items in a cycle of consumption. The middle highlights stakeholders’ relationship with the government. It strives to reveal that the issue is not as simple as removing SUP from the equation. SUP is affordable and retains its value after recycling, while plant-based items are more expensive, often more harmful to the environment, and large amounts end up in landfills, just like SUP.
The removal of SUP has many logistical challenges like job loss and infrastructure investment. Leverage points in the system that could create positive change might be the education of Canadians to reuse single-use items and improvement to Canada’s recycling processes.