Plastic Pollution in the Canadian Great Lakes: Drivers, Barriers and Policy Recommendations
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Plastic pollution is detrimental to the economy, the environment and human health. More research have been conducted on marine plastic pollution than on freshwater plastic pollution, even though rivers and lakes are substantial sources and sinks for plastic debris. Through Canada's voluntary international pledges at the G20 and G7, and national legislative development such as the Microbeads in Toiletries (2018) and Single-use Plastic Prohibition Regulations (2022), there are commitments towards full waste recovery and plastic pollution prevention. Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes is a complex problem because of the ubiquity of plastic debris. Moreover, there is a scarcity of studies being done on the incorporation of stakeholders' perceptions in pollution prevention decision-making. Because local stakeholders are agents of change, it is vital to investigate and utilize local perceptions and diverse expertise in decision-making. This study intends to fill this gap by exploring current challenges and interpreting best practices for pollution prevention, through eliciting local experts’ perceptions. To do so, this study adopted a hybrid methodology that combines a desk-based literature analysis and semi-structured interviews (n=21). Semi-structured interviews were performed with key informants from the private sector, public sector, non-profit organizations or NGOs, and academia, who have knowledge of or have participated in plastic pollution prevention in Canada. Content analysis using inductive and deductive coding of qualitative interview data yielded practical information on current challenges and suggestions to address them. Qualitative interview data were supplemented by triangulation of a Canadian national and Ontario provincial policy review and cross-validating concepts proposed by key informants. Results revealed a multifaceted picture of stakeholders' perspectives, including parallels and contrasts in viewpoints. Using the CCME waste hierarchy as a methodological framework, this study revealed stakeholders' preference for preventive instruments above value recovery or clean-ups of plastic waste. First, respondents identified two significant sources of pollution that must be addressed, being (1) multi-source plastic leakage and (2) individual consumer consumption and poor behaviors that led to plastic leakage. Second, important barriers to overcome were highlighted as (1) deficiency in enforceable binational, national, and provincial policies, (2) inaction from the private sector, governments, and the average consumers, and (3) a lack of capacity on several frontiers, particularly in accommodating alternatives to using single-use plastics. Third, taking multiple perspectives into account, the findings of this study identified relevant rights-based, policy-based, and behavior-based voluntary and mandatory instruments that would assist policy development and future action plans in the Canadian Great Lakes. Future inter-disciplinary investigations should include assessing the effectiveness of voluntary and regulatory instruments, building consensus among stakeholders from various sectors, and investigating effective techniques to facilitate behavior changes that can be incorporated into all future preventive efforts.
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Trang Le (2022). Plastic Pollution in the Canadian Great Lakes: Drivers, Barriers and Policy Recommendations. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19003