Government of Canada moving forward with banning harmful single-use plastics
December 21, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario
Plastic pollution litters our beaches, parks, streets, shorelines and other places Canadians value. It is harmful to our nature and wildlife and Canadians are demanding action. That is why the Government of Canada is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to address plastic pollution in the long term that includes a ban on certain harmful single-use plastics in the short term.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, announced that draft regulations prohibiting certain single-use plastics have now been published for public comment. The draft regulations reflect input received through extensive consultations conducted by the Government of Canada since 2019, including from the tens of thousands of Canadians who expressed their support for banning certain single-use plastics. It is estimated that the regulations would prevent more than 23,000 tonnes of plastic pollution from entering the environment over a ten-year period—the equivalent of one million garbage bags of litter—and their enactment represents both a necessary and a major step in the regulatory process that brings Canada one step closer to delivering on its commitment to banning certain harmful single-use plastics. It is the Government’s intent to finalize these Regulations and bring the ban into force as quickly as possible and as early as late 2022 after reviewing and considering comments received.
The Government of Canada’s approach to banning harmful single-use plastics is based on evidence, facts and rigorous science. The proposed Regulations brought forward today are grounded in the findings of the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution, which the Government finalized in October 2020 after examining hundreds of scientific studies and other sources of evidence, which confirmed that plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment and that it has harmful environmental impacts.
The Government of Canada will soon publish draft guidance to help businesses adapt to the requirements of the proposed Regulations.
The Government of Canada recognizes that plastics that can easily be recycled play an important role in the everyday lives of many Canadians, but that only 9 percent of plastic waste is being recycled right now. That is why these Regulations are an important part of a plan to reduce plastic pollution through a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire lifecycle of plastics. Another key element of the plan will be the establishment of regulated standards to increase the use of recycled content in certain plastic products. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring all plastic packaging in Canada contains at least 50 percent recycled content by 2030; achieving an ambitious recycling target of 90 percent—aligned with Quebec and the European Union—for plastic beverage containers; prohibiting misleading recycling labelling that is not supported by recycling facilities; and working with the provinces and territories to ensure that producers, not taxpayers, are responsible for the cost of managing their plastic waste.
Other levels of government also have important roles to play in addressing this challenge and seizing this opportunity, many of which are already taking action. At the local level, municipalities such as Vancouver and Toronto are implementing strategies to reduce single-use plastics, better prevent and manage litter, and improve the management of plastic waste. Several provinces and territories are also taking action to improve the management of plastic waste. Together, federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste in November 2018, which lays out a vision for a circular economy for plastics, as well as a two-phase action plan that the Government of Canada will continue to implement jointly with partners.
The Canada-wide Strategy and action plan include putting in place guidance to support consistent approaches to extended producer responsibility across Canada so that companies that manufacture, import, or sell plastic products and packaging are responsible for collecting and recycling them in a coordinated, fair manner.
The market is already moving forward, with a growing number of retailers and restaurants taking action to avoid single-use plastics. The Government of Canada will continue to work with industry and Canadians to promote the adoption of sustainable alternatives, particularly reusable options, and to transition Canada away from a linear economy—one that takes, makes, then wastes—and to move toward a circular economy for plastics by eliminating unnecessary and hard-to-recycle single-use plastics and increasing rates of repair, remanufacture, refurbishment, reuse, and recycling.
“We are taking action to get plastic pollution out of Canada’s communities and our waterways. The proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations are a big step forward in our goal to reduce plastic pollution and move to a circular economy for plastics. Smart, clear and collaborative regulations will help drive innovation across the country as reusable and easier-to-recycle items take their place in our economy.”
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Reducing plastic pollution creates a healthier living environment for all, because we know that plastics break down into tiny pieces that can get into water streams and be eaten by animals. These regulations will contribute to our commitment to getting rid of certain single-use plastics.”
– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health
In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily. In addition, single-use plastics make up most of plastic litter that is found in freshwater environments.
Over 35 countries around the world have already taken action by banning certain single-use plastics, including the UK, France, and Italy, and Canada’s approach is in line with other leading jurisdictions such as the EU.
In January 2020, the Government of Canada published the Draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution in Part I of the Canada Gazette. The Assessment surveyed available scientific information regarding the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. The Assessment confirmed that plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment, including on shorelines, in surface waters, sediment, soil, groundwater, indoor and outdoor air, drinking water, and food, and that it is negatively impacting our environment. The Draft Assessment was posted for a 60-day comment period. Additional engagement with stakeholders was undertaken to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the development and implementation of our approach to plastic pollution. The Final Science Assessment was published in October 2020
In 2020, the Government of Canada conducted an analysis of available data to determine which items meet the requirements for the proposed ban. This analysis identified the following six single-use plastic items that the Government is moving forward to prohibit:
- checkout bags
- foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics
- ring carriers
- stir sticks
Recognizing that medical patients and people with certain disabilities require single-use flexible plastic straws to eat, drink, or take medication, the proposed Regulations would ensure that these straws continue to be available for people who require them and allow for their continued use in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and long-term care facilities.
In May 2021, the Government of Canada published an order to add “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA)—another necessary and critically important regulatory step to managing plastic products—and set conditions for a circular economy for plastics.
The Government of Canada encourages stakeholders, partners and Canadians to participate in the consultation on the proposed Regulations. The consultation period will run until March 5, 2022.
The Government is aware that businesses may need time to transition away from the single-use plastics being banned or restricted. The Government has therefore proposed in the draft regulations a one-year transition period between final publication and coming into force. However, the Government is also aware that the market has already made significant progress in moving away from the single-use plastic products that are proposed for prohibition. This includes a number of restaurants that have already moved away from using single-use plastic cutlery and straws as well as a number of retailers that have moved away from single-use plastic checkout bags in favour of reusable alternatives. Therefore, a shorter transition period is being considered. It is the Government’s intent to finalize these Regulations and bring the bans into force as quickly as possible and as early as late 2022 after reviewing and considering the comments received.
The World Trade Organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement requires that, with limited exemptions, technical regulations made by member countries provide at least a six-month transition time between the publication of final regulations and their coming into force.
With the exception of straws, the proposed Regulations would ban the manufacture, import and sale of the six categories of single-use plastic items, with the prohibition on manufacture and import entering into force first and the prohibition on sale to follow. This is to allow for a transition period that is consistent with the environmental expectations of Canadians, while also giving businesses the time to deplete remaining stock and adapt to the new rules with minimal disruption.
- The proposed prohibition on straws would take a different approach to accommodate people with certain disabilities and those who need them for medical reasons.
- A number of exemptions to the prohibition on straws would allow access to single-use flexible plastic straws while prohibiting all other types of single-use plastic straws.
- These exemptions are linked to where and how straws are sold. As a result, the restrictions on the sale of single-use flexible plastic straws will enter into force at the same time as the prohibition on their manufacture and import.
- Proposed Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations
- Zero plastic waste: Canada’s actions
- Plastic waste and pollution reduction
- Information on plastic pollution
- Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution
- A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products: discussion paper
- Canada one-step closer to zero plastic waste by 2030
- Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Action Plan – Phase 1 and 2
- Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda
- Canada to ban harmful single-use plastics and hold companies responsible for plastic waste
- Ocean Plastics Charter
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
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