On Earth Day, Government of Canada targets plastic waste and marine litter, with launch of online consultation

News release

April 22, 2018 – Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

Plastic waste and marine litter pose an increasingly serious threat to our oceans and marine life. Canada is committed to protecting our environment and preserving our waterways, so that all Canadians can continue to enjoy the beauty, health and economic benefits that our oceans, lakes and rivers provide. The Government of Canada is working at home and with international partners to address this serious and growing problem.

As Canadians celebrate Earth Day, Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, launched Canada’s Dialogue on Plastic Waste to gather Canadians’ views on plastics and identify ways we can achieve zero plastic waste and reduce marine litter.

In consultation with Canadians, Indigenous peoples, industry, municipalities, non-profit organizations and research institutions, the Government of Canada will work with provinces and territories to develop an approach to keep plastics within the economy and out of landfills and the environment.

Canadians are invited to share their ideas for potential solutions in areas such as sustainable design and production (changing how we create plastics to extend their life and eliminate waste), and collection and management (improving how we collect and manage plastics at their end of life).

While marking Earth Day, Minister McKenna also participated in a shoreline cleanup hosted by the Ecology Action Centre, the Friends of McNabs Island Society and Oceans North, in the seaside community of Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, overlooking McNabs Island and Halifax Harbour. As plastics and other debris pollute shorelines across the country, Canada is encouraging citizens to take the time to care for their local marine areas and coastlines.

Throughout its G7 Presidency, Canada will advance global and domestic action on marine plastic litter and ocean preservation. Canada is working with G7 and G20 countries and others to reduce plastic waste and prevent marine litter from polluting our oceans. At the cleanup, Minister McKenna launched the G7 Shoreline Sweep Challenge, encouraging Ministerial counterparts from G7 nations to launch their own shoreline cleanup. Canadians are also invited to take part, and to send video and pictures of their own Shoreline Sweeps leading up to World Environment Day, on June 5.


“Plastic products are polluting our oceans and waterways—not just in Canada but around the world. That’s why Canada is taking action through this year’s G7 and beyond, to keep plastics out of our oceans, waterways and landfills. I look forward to working with our partners here at home and our G7 counterparts and others abroad to make sure plastics are reused and recycled smartly in a way that benefits both our economy and our environment.”

– Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“As a province heavily dependent on our oceans, Nova Scotia has the opportunity to set the stage in Canada and take strong action on reducing single use plastics and expanding extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs. This event is an opportunity for politicians and the public to come together to learn first-hand about the effects of plastic pollution on our oceans. It’s encouraging to have Minister McKenna here today to bear witness to the effects of plastics to our oceans. We hope that the government will take the necessary steps to support the transition away from plastics to a renewable economy.”

– Colleen Turlo, Sustainable Food Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre

“For over 27 years, the annual Friends of McNabs Island beach cleanup has shown first-hand how ocean plastics pollute our shoreline.  So far, we've collected about 13,000 bags of garbage, and countless other large items. The debris ranges from furniture to tires to lobster traps to shopping carts. Sadly, enough to fill two olympic-sized swimming pools. But in the end it doesn't matter whether it's an unusual item, or the many coffee cups and tampon applicators that pollute Halifax Regional Municipality. None of it belongs in the environment.”

– Royce Walker, Vice President, Friends of McNabs Island Society

“Ocean Conservancy is thrilled that Canada is tackling ocean trash as part of its leadership role as president of the G7. With over 8 million metric tons of plastic flowing into the ocean every year, we must solve this problem. From participating in local cleanups in Canada and around the world, to making smarter choices about what we buy and use, to incentivizing waste collection and recycling for a circular economy in places where the flow of trash from land to the ocean is greatest, every individual and every government has a role to play in meeting our goal of trash free seas.”

– Janis Searles Jones, CEO, Ocean Conservancy

“Coastal communities from Halifax to Iqaluit depend on a healthy and abundant ocean. Reducing plastic use is an urgent global issue that requires real leadership. We commend Canada for providing that leadership domestically and internationally.”

– Louie Porta, Vice President, Oceans North

Quick facts

  • One of Canada’s G7 themes is working together on climate change, oceans, and clean energy.

  • Worldwide, there is more than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean.

  • Every year, approximately eight million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans from land.

  • At this rate, plastics could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050.

  • Globally, less than 10 per cent of all plastics are recycled and kept in the economy.

  • In January 2018, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 11 global companies including Coca-Cola, Walmart, Evian and Unilever committed to work towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.

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Caroline Thériault
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll free)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Twitter page

Environment and Natural Resources in Canada’s Facebook page

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