- Action is needed to eliminate plastic pollution at its source by reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or the environment. Over three million tonnes of plastics were discarded as waste in Canada in 2016, and only 9% was recycled. Plastic waste burdens our economy representing a $7.8 billion lost opportunity. When leaked into the natural environment plastic threatens the health of our wildlife, ecosystems, rivers, lakes and oceans.
Points to register
- The Government of Canada has adopted a comprehensive approach to meet its target of zero plastic waste by 2030. Important aspects of our agenda include investing in research through the Canadian Plastics Science Agenda, innovation through the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenges and in community action through the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative.
- We are working with all sectors in order to keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.
- We are working in partnership with organizations and industries to improve product design for longer product life, repairability and recyclability, and to develop solutions to increase the recovery of waste plastics in Canada.
- We are also working to ensure producers are responsible for the waste their products generate, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.
- And we are also working with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to address plastic waste and pollution. Together we have launched the Canada-wide Strategy for Zero Plastic Waste and adopted an action plan that contains collaborative actions by government to help reduce waste, improve the recovery of plastics, and help consumers do their part as well. The strategy takes a circular economy approach to plastics and provides a framework for action in Canada.
- We also announced further details on our steps to address plastic waste and pollution and our proposal to ban harmful single-use plastics. These included the release of a discussion paper outlining a proposed framework for managing plastics, a proposed list of single-use items that could be banned or restricted, as well as other proposed measures to increase Canada’s ability to recycle and recover plastics.
Action on single-use plastics
- Disposable and single-use plastic products – such as packaging, bags, straws, and disposable containers – are a priority area for action as they account for almost half of the plastic waste generated in Canada every year. The Department analyzed a list of single-use plastic products drawing from various sources including scientific studies; actions being taken by other jurisdictions; shoreline cleanups; and litter audits.
- The items were analyzed through a Management Framework for Single-use Plastics. The Framework uses the following criteria: prevalence in the environment or known/suspected environmental harm; whether it has low value-recovery potential; and whether a safe alternative exists. Value-recovery potential was determined based on whether the item hampers recycling and/or wastewater treatment, is non-recyclable, has low or very low recycling rate, and/or encounters barriers to increasing its recycling rate. Items falling into these categories were proposed for potential management measures and those that met all the criteria for both categories were proposed as candidates for a ban or restriction on its use.
- Using this framework, the analysis identified six plastic manufactured items that meet the requirements of a proposed ban or a restriction. These items include: plastic checkout bags; stir sticks; 6-pack rings; cutlery; straws; and food service ware made from problematic plastics. These single-use plastics represent a small portion of the $25 billion in plastic products sold in Canada in 2016, but create barriers to recovering value from plastic waste and pose outsized threats to wildlife. The proposed elimination or restriction of these six plastic manufactured items is one of a range of measures being considered.
- The comprehensive approach to plastic waste and pollution will help protect Canada’s environment and support the transition to a circular economy. The goal is to keep the value of plastics in the economy and out of the environment which could reduce carbon pollution by 1.8 megatonnes per year, generate $8 billion in annual revenue, and create approximately 42,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Investing in solutions
- We believe that actions by individuals, communities and industry can also make a big difference. We have provided funding for solutions to prevent pollution and support clean-up activities through the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative and the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenges.
- Through the Canadian Plastic Innovation Challenges, the Government is investing nearly $19 million and has leveraged over $3 million in additional funding across 15 innovation challenges plus two Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) compostability/recycling challenges to support Canadian innovators and small- and medium-sized businesses. The intention is to develop solutions in high-waste generating sectors including plastic packaging, textiles, construction and certain medical waste.
- We also know that increasing knowledge on plastic pollution supports evidence-based action and future solutions. The Government is investing in research and bridging information gaps on the effects of microplastics on the health of Canadians and our environment. Research, development, and innovation across the entire plastics lifecycle will help keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.
Action on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Public health protection is a top priority for the Government of Canada. The Government recognizes the importance of balancing environmental protection and clean growth with the role of plastic in protecting human health, in particular during this COVID-19 public health emergency. The Government is aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional PPE-derived plastic waste, and is actively seeking mitigation strategies while also ensuring Canadians remain protected.
- PPE includes a range of products such as gloves, gowns, surgical masks, face shields, goggles and N95 respirators, and these are not all produced with the same materials.
- As a preliminary step, the Government delivered a social media campaign promoting the safe and effective use of reusable masks. To address recycling and compostability challenges, the Government of Canada, through the National Research Council of Canada, launched two competitions for entrepreneurs: “COVID-19: Recycling technologies for disposable (single-use) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used in the healthcare sector” and “COVID-19: Compostable disposable surgical masks and compostable disposable respirators used in the Canadian healthcare system.”
- Canada launched the Ocean Plastics Charter during its 2018 G7 presidency. Canada continues this leadership role by encouraging countries and companies to adopt the Charter and reduce their plastic waste. Canada also invested $100 million to support solutions for environmentally sound waste management and plastic pollution mitigation in developing countries.
- Canada implements its international obligations to prevent waste and litter under several legally binding international agreements including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the London Convention and Protocol to prevent marine pollution by dumping at sea.
- Canada also contributes to other international frameworks for action against plastic waste and litter such as: the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter, the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter and Implementation Framework, International Maritime Organization Action Plan to Address Marine Litter from Ships, and plastic waste-related United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions.
Export of plastic waste
- Canada has actively supported and has now accepted (as of December 29, 2020) the new controls on transboundary movements of certain plastic waste under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal (“Basel Convention”). As such, since January 1, 2021, Canada is implementing the Basel amendments on plastic waste through its Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations.
- Environment and Climate Change Canada works collaboratively within the Department and externally with other Departments such as the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to ensure compliance with our regulations. Canada participated in a world-wide inspection initiative, Operation Demeter VI, with 72 other members of the World Customs Organization (WCO) from around the world, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Belgium. During this operation Canada carried out targeted inspections of approximately 500,000 kg of plastic waste.
- In accordance with its obligations under the Basel Convention, Canada concluded an arrangement with the United States affirming that wastes subject to the arrangement and circulating between Canada and the United States are managed in an environmentally sound manner in both countries and as such can circulate freely. The Arrangement also affirms that Canada and the United States intend to maintain measures to provide for the environmentally sound management of waste subject to the arrangement in order to protect human health and the environment.
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