Canada’s comprehensive approach to zero plastic waste
Scientific evidence confirms that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment, and that macroplastic pollution is harmful to wildlife and their habitat. Single-use plastics, such as checkout bags, and food and beverage service items, make up the bulk of macroplastics found on shorelines in Canada and internationally.
The Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations were made under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), following the addition of “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 in May 2021. The decision to add “plastic manufactured items” to CEPA was grounded in the findings of the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution.
These Regulations reflect extensive consultations conducted by the Government of Canada since 2018 with provincial, territorial, and municipal jurisdictions; industry; civil society groups; and individuals, as shown in this timeline. The Government received comments from partners and stakeholders as well as from thousands of people who expressed their support for banning certain single-use plastics.
In recognition of the fact that medical patients and persons with certain disabilities may require single-use flexible plastic straws to eat, drink, or take medication, the Regulations have exceptions that ensure single-use flexible plastic straws remain available for people who require them. This includes for medical or accessibility reasons, whether for use at home, in social settings, or in care institutions. These exemptions include provisions that allow stores to sell packages of twenty or more flexible plastic single-use straws as long as they are kept out of view and sold upon request. This means persons who require single-use flexible plastic straws can bring them to restaurants and other social settings. All other types of single-use plastic straws will be prohibited.
Other key elements of Canada’s approach toward reducing plastic pollution include establishing performance standards to increase the use of recycled content in certain plastic products and ensuring that manufacturers, importers, and sellers of plastic products and packaging are responsible for collecting and recycling them. The Government of Canada will continue to work collaboratively with its partners to advance its zero plastic waste agenda at home and abroad, including by working with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, and Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the associated Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste.
Internationally, building on Canada’s 2018 G7 Presidency and its role as a champion of the Ocean Plastics Charter, the Government of Canada continues to advocate for the transition to a circular economy for plastics. As part of its commitment to the Ocean Plastics Charter, Canada has invested $100 million to help developing countries address plastic pollution. Furthermore, at a recent United Nations Environment Assembly meeting, Canada, along with 175 other nations, endorsed a historical resolution to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
“Scientific evidence confirms that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment, and that single-use plastics, such as checkout bags make up most of the plastic litter found on shorelines across Canada. The new Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, along with Canada’s global commitments under the Ocean Plastics Charter, demonstrate Canada’s continued commitment to reducing plastic pollution, and keeping our shorelines and oceans clean and pollution-free.”
– Patrick Weiler, Member of Parliament, West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country, British Columbia
“Canadian families know how plastics litter our beaches, parks, playgrounds, and waterways. Plastics spoil the enjoyment of our beautiful natural environment and harm our wildlife. We’re getting rid of some of the most common single-use plastic products that pollute our communities and putting Canada on the path to a plastics economy that recycles and reuses.”
– The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development
“Plastic pollution has emerged as a key environmental issue globally, and there is increasing concern about its impact on the environment, economies, and human health. The publication of the new Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations marks a major milestone for Canada in its commitment to reduce plastic pollution. In doing so, Canada has joined the over fifty countries around the world that have taken action by banning certain single-use plastics in order to keep plastics in the economy and out of our environment.”
– Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“People in Canada have expressed their concerns about plastic littering our beaches, parks, streets, shorelines, and other places of value. Through the new Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, Canada has shown its steadfast commitment and leadership by taking strong action to reduce plastic pollution, protect biodiversity, and promote a healthy environment here at home and around the world.”
– Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“I’m proud that Atlantic Canada led the way on banning single-use plastic bags in our country, and grateful for the example and efforts of sustainability-minded entrepreneurs like Will and Sarah at Luminate Co, who have put waste reduction at the core of their business models. Today, the Government of Canada is stepping up to prevent even more harmful single‑use plastic items from entering our environment through the new Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. These regulations are part of a comprehensive approach aimed at transitioning Canada away from a linear economy that disposes of plastic as waste toward a circular economy that reduces plastic pollution and drives innovation.”
– Lena Metlege Diab, Member of Parliament, Halifax West, Nova Scotia
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