Manitobans keen to keep plastic straws: poll


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They may be harmful to the environment, but Manitobans aren’t ready to ditch plastic straws.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/07/2022 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They may be harmful to the environment, but Manitobans aren’t ready to ditch plastic straws.

In a survey of Canadians’ habits related to protecting the environment, Stats Canada polled 38,000 households in 2021 on multiple topics.

While overall use of plastic drinking straws in Canada has decreased since the last survey in 2019 – from 23 per cent of Canadian households saying they used them to 20 per cent in 2021 – just under one in three households in Manitoba, the highest out of any province, said they used single-use straws. Forty-one per cent of those homes used four or more a week. Their use increased in Manitoba over the past three years, from 26 per cent of households in 2019 to 29 per cent in 2021.

Just under half of all Manitobans surveyed said they take their own bags or containers when they grocery shop. While this is significantly lower than households in Newfoundland and Labrador (89 per cent), Prince Edward Island (88 per cent) and Nova Scotia (81 per cent), it is similar to Saskatchewan (39 per cent) and British Columbia (44 per cent).

Colleen Ans of the Green Action Centre said interest in reducing the use of single-use plastics was piqued during the pandemic, even though more takeout food was purchased.

“We definitely see more interest in wanting to produce less waste among individuals and households,” she said.

“Especially, I think, during the pandemic when we were all stuck at home… you had more time to do activities like cook and do things that would limit your waste.”

Ans said the organization receives a “mixed bag” of reactions when it puts forward ways Manitobans could reduce consumption, a timely topic during “Plastic free July,” a worldwide initiative that encourages people to find ways to avoid single-use plastics.

Green Action Centre works with Winnipeggers to take part, by encouraging people to shop for produce that uses less plastic and use reusable straws and bags.

“They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. So within that month, you should have been able to develop at least one habit of how to reduce your plastic waste,” Ans said.

While many corporations have traded plastic straws for paper variants, Ans said these options sometimes have an equal or even worse impact on the environment: the plastic sipping lids often used at Starbucks, for example, can contain more plastic than a plastic straw would.

“That’s known as greenwashing, in the way that you can say something’s green, you can put that little eco sticker on it,” she said. “But really, the underlying effects aren’t actually benefiting the environment, it’s just a way to look more green and better in the eyes of society.”

The centre calls for reusable replacements, rather than “better disposables.”

It encourages people to frequent businesses that use sustainable products rather than big corporations that might be guilty of greenwashing.

“Even just making it known that that’s something that you care about, using your voice and your power as a consumer, that you would like that organization to use better quality products and more sustainable products,” Ans said.

The federal government will ban the manufacture and import of plastic straws and bags by the end of the year. Exceptions will be made for people with disabilities and those who need them for medical reasons. Sales of plastic straws will be prohibited by December 2023.

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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