The Government of Canada invests in plastics science research to further understand environmental threats

News release

May 31, 2021 – Gatineau, Quebec

Plastics have a big impact on our environment and ecosystems. They are polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans, and they are harmful to wildlife and may threaten human health. The Government of Canada is committed to achieving zero plastic waste by 2030, and is working to take action to reduce plastic pollution across the country and to create a circular economy for plastics. This includes banning certain harmful single-use plastics, where warranted and supported by science. Information generated by research scientists is vital to plastics policy development and to making evidence-based decisions in our ongoing effort to protect wildlife and our waters, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.

Today, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, announced that the Government of Canada is providing close to $7 million to support seven science-based research projects. These projects aim to close gaps in our knowledge and improve understanding of the threats posed by plastic pollution and to help us move toward a cleaner and healthier world.

Among the selected projects are those being carried out by the University of British Columbia, which aims to advance technologies to quantify and characterize microplastics in aquatic environments; the National Institute of Scientific Research, which will assess the potential effects of nanoplastics on human health; and the University of Guelph, which will assess potential risks that microplastics pose to freshwater and soil ecosystems.

This funding is provided through the Plastics Science for a Cleaner Future Initiative, supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. It is in alignment with Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda and the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution. This is an important piece of Canada’s comprehensive Zero Plastic Waste agenda.

Canada is taking action to protect the environment and reduce plastic pollution across the country with a comprehensive approach. This includes moving toward a circular economy that keeps plastic in the economy and out of the environment through activities such as better product design; higher rates of repair, remanufacturing, and recycling; and advancing science and community actions to reduce plastic pollution.

By following the science to improve how we manage plastic and by investing in innovative solutions, we can reduce 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year and create approximately 42,000 jobs across the country.


“Canadians can see all too clearly that we have a plastics pollution problem, but measuring the specific harms of plastics in our environment requires scientific assessment. Scientific research is fundamental to help us understand and address plastic pollution. As science advances, it provides greater knowledge to make meaningful progress on tackling this growing threat through innovation and targeted solutions.”
– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Plastic pollution knows no borders, affecting Arctic waters, wildlife and residents in coastal communities. We are committed to supporting research that will help us better understand the threats posed by plastic pollution and develop evidence-based solutions. Together, we are working to address one of the greatest challenges of our age and helping move Canada toward zero plastic waste.”
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“Congratulations to all recipients. NSERC is pleased to partner with Environment and Climate Change Canada to support research projects that will address the impacts of plastics on the environment, wildlife, and human health to create a cleaner and healthier future for Canada and Canadians.”
– Alejandro Adem, President, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Quick facts

  • Canadians throw away over three million tonnes of plastic waste every year—that’s as heavy as 25,000 blue whales.

  • Only nine percent of Canada’s plastic items are presently recycled while the rest ends up in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, or the environment.

  • Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CaPSA) is a call to action for Canadian researchers and research funders from all sectors to work together to address priority knowledge gaps in plastics science. It identifies opportunities for research that will strengthen the evidence base for decision-making.

  • The Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution, published in October 2020, summarizes the state of the science regarding the potential effects of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. It confirms that plastic pollution is everywhere and is negatively impacting our environment.

  • On May 12, 2021, the final Order adding plastic manufactured items to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, to address the potential ecological risks associated with certain plastic manufactured items.

Associated links


Moira Kelly
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)

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