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Canada  

Trudeau not banning straws

Canada will heartily endorse an international declaration aimed cleaning up the oceans, Justin Trudeau said Thursday — but the prime minister stopped short of committing his government to a burgeoning push for an outright ban on the use of plastic drinking straws.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who sat down with her Canadian counterpart the day before in London to discuss shared priorities, has set her sights on eliminating the ubiquitous utensil as a first step toward ridding the world's oceans of so-called "convenience plastic."

Cracking down on proliferating plastics and promoting the spread of LGBTQ rights largely dominated Trudeau's first day at the Commonwealth leaders' summit, which came on the penultimate day of a three-country tour that included stops in Peru and France.

The Commonwealth summit represents a rare opportunity for Canada's prime minister to meet with and hear from 52 counterparts from six continents, most of whom share some type of link to the old British Empire.

This time around, it also allowed Trudeau to piggyback on what appears to have become a personal crusade for May, who declared at the start of the summit that she would launch consultations later this year aimed at eliminating plastic waste.

The plan would see Britain work with industry to develop more sustainable alternatives to drinking straws, as well as cotton swabs and plastic stir sticks to address what May described as "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world."

Such products have been under fire in the U.K. since the airing of a stunning BBC documentary that included a detailed look at the impact of plastics on the world's oceans.

As host of the summit, May also championed what is being referred to as a Commonwealth Blue Charter, which Trudeau said Canada would sign and whose principles it hopes to advance at this year's G7 in Quebec.

The charter lays out a broad vision that would see developed and developing countries alike work together to ensure the ocean remains vibrant and its use sustainable.

Trudeau, however, would not be pinned down on the question of whether Canada would follow May's lead on drinking straws.

"We know that macroplastics like straws are a significant challenge in the ocean, but we also know that both microplastics and nanoplastics represent a real challenge to ocean ecosystems," he told a news conference at the Canadian High Commission.

"We are very much looking for approaches that are going to be both substantive and impactful in the way we move forward … not just as a single country, although Canada has the longest coastline in the world, but hopefully as a global economy."

The government last year adopted legislation banning plastic microbeads in bath and body products — the law is scheduled to take effect in July — but has not said when it plans to take action against other types of plastic.



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