Open Letter – Fondation de Gaspé Beaubien & Aqua Forum commends the ban on single-use plastics

By Laurence Basso October 13, 2020

OTTAWA TO PHASE OUT PLASTICS

The transition away from single-use plastics can be supported by emerging innovation and the cleantech sector

By Nan-B and François de Gaspé Beaubien, respectively, Founder and Chair of Aqua Forum

 

Today, the Government of Canada released its preliminary list of banned single-use plastic items and announced its plan to designate plastic a toxic substance. The de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation and the organization it created to address freshwater challenges in Canada, Aqua Forum, applaud this decision as it marks an important moment in our country’s history. A year ago, we shared our recommendations both to phase out plastic bottles and to facilitate access to safe drinking water for all Canadians. While we hope that bottles will be included in the ban on some single-use plastics, we are pleased to hear that the heart of our message, and that of many Canadians, has been heard.

Surrounded by three oceans, the world’s longest coastline, and encompassing 20% of the world’s total freshwater, Canada is a water nation.

Yet, all too often, we overlook the water within our borders. If we do not act decisively, the lack of access to safe drinking water in Indigenous communities, the contamination of water sources in municipalities across Canada, and the impact of climate change on water security will irrevocably compromise the triple bottom line of human health, environmental sustainability and economic viability.

Canada now needs to lead the way in water technology in order to drive innovation and ecologically sustainable growth.

Inspired by a new generation and building on our experience in Canadian business and signature initiatives such as Expo 67 and ParticipAction, our family decided to dedicate itself to the critical issue of freshwater in Canada. Five years ago, we launched Aqua Forum. Through its flagship AquaHacking Challenge, the organization takes an innovative approach by engaging young tech entrepreneurs across Canada to find solutions to some of the country’s most wicked water challenges – including combatting the plastic pollution crisis.

Through our AquaHacking Challenge, young innovators have been tasked with addressing the issue of plastic pollution in aquatic environments. From this process emerged several new water technology start-ups that developed innovative methods and products to better capture plastics in our water and to reduce the reliance on plastic products.

To name one, Poly-Mer (participants in the 2017 AquaHacking Challenge) developed an innovative filter that captures microplastics in freshwater ecosystems before they reach the oceans where it becomes more difficult and more costly to trap them.

To complement the innovative policies led by the government, Canada will require innovative technologies to meet the demands of the market without relying on the products offered by the plastics industry as it currently operates. As evidenced in successful start-ups established through the AquaHacking Challenges and that continue to thrive and grow to this day, young entrepreneurs and tech start-ups are a key source of solutions to today’s industrial and environmental challenges. For promising start-ups to become commercial successes, further investment is needed in terms of funding, mentorship. knowledge-sharing and partnerships to pilot and test new technologies.

The government’s initiative represents an unprecedented opportunity for those next-generation entrepreneurs and experts to lead the way in this transition to a cleaner, greener future. Let us all embrace this opportunity and help make Canada a superpower in clean water.