Canada’s Proposed Single-Use Plastic Ban Presents An Opportunity For Promo Companies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that his government would ban single-use plastics—such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks—as early as 2021, and will work with territories and provinces on developing standards to regulate plastic waste.

“Canadians know firsthand the impact of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets and shorelines littered with plastic waste,” says Trudeau. “We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come.”

In its announcement, the government of Canada noted that less than 10 percent of plastic used in the country gets recycled, and without a change in course, Canadians will throw away an estimated $11 billion worth of plastic materials annually by 2030. The proposed ban on single-use plastic products will be implemented where supported by scientific evidence and warranted. The government will also take other steps to reduce pollution from plastic products and packaging, and work with provinces and territories to introduce standards and targets for companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging, so they become responsible for their plastic waste.

“This is a net positive for the industry and the world,” says Mark Graham, founder of Toronto, Ontario-based distributor RIGHTSLEEVE and chief platform officer of business services company commonsku. “It benefits the industry largely because it allows us to communicate the value of promotional products from the standpoint of reducing environmental impact. When a single-use plastic product is not allowed, like a bag, it leads people to search for alternatives that our industry is perfectly designed to provide.”

Jae Rang, MAS, principal of distributor JAE Associates, Ltd. in Oakville, Ontario, says, “As one who believes we’re all connected—not just humankind but all living creatures—I’m proud of this bold mandate by the Canadian government. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, it’s kicking a door wide open for the promotional products industry. Renewable resources and reusable products will give brands the opportunity for an aligned voice and push this movement fast and furiously, as we should. Turtles are applauding, and dolphins are dancing.”

Graham sees the opportunities present in the government’s proposed single-use plastics ban as aligning with trends he’s already observing in the promotional products industry and among end users. He says, “There’s a real desire among distributors to sell products that cut through the crap. It’s existed for some time but never more passionately than it is today—distributors are focused on how they can provide innovative, design-forward solutions to customers in a nonhyperbolic way. And marketers are more sophisticated in what they want in a promotional product. They want products that matter.

“In our discussions with marketers on how they measure ROI in promotional products, it’s become clear to me how easy it is to make a case for high-quality, premium products because the cost per ad impression is so much lower than TV, radio, etc. The Canadian government’s announcement on single-use plastics is a wonderful win-win story for a smart distributor. Our industry provides much better marketing value to advertisers, while a promotional product that people keep, by definition, isn’t ending up in a landfill.”

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