Canada’s ban on certain harmful single-use plastics
Scientific evidence confirms that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment. Macroplastic pollution is harmful to wildlife and wildlife habitat, and 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. Organisms can ingest or become entangled in macroplastics, which can result in direct harm and, in many cases, loss of life. Plastic pollution may physically damage habitats and transport non-native species to the area, which could transmit diseases to wildlife and possibly lead to a loss of biodiversity.
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 of the Act in May 2021. The decision to add “plastic manufactured items” to CEPA was grounded in the findings of the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution.
The six single-use plastic items being prohibited (checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws) were selected because they are commonly found in the environment, are harmful to wildlife and wildlife habitat, are difficult to recycle, and have readily available alternatives.
To enable industry to adapt to the changes, the Regulations will be implemented on the following phased timeline:
|Item||Manufacture and import for sale in Canada||Sale||Manufacture, import and sale for export|
|Checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, straws*||December 20, 2022||December 20, 2023||December 20, 2025|
|Ring carriers||June 20, 2023||June 20, 2024||December 20, 2025|
|Flexible straws packaged with beverage containers||Not applicable||June 20, 2024||December 20, 2025|
*Single-use plastic flexible straws that are not packaged with beverage containers are excluded from the prohibitions under certain conditions.
The choice and design of future instruments to address plastic pollution from other single-use plastics will build on the Roadmap to Strengthen the Management of Single-use and Disposable Plastics released by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment earlier this year. The Roadmap identifies some 30 single-use and disposable plastics and provides guidance on prioritizing those items for targeted management and selecting instruments that may be effective for managing each of them.
This publication is part of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments’ collective implementation of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste to move Canada toward its goal of a zero plastic waste future.
The momentum to address single-use and disposable plastics is on the rise in Canada, with initiatives by all levels of government and by businesses. This momentum complements the Government of Canada's Regulations.
As part of Canada’s ongoing comprehensive agenda to reduce plastic waste and pollution, the Government of Canada is continuing to bring forward new measures to prevent plastic pollution, better manage plastics, and transition to a circular economy. These measures include developing regulations to set minimum recycled content requirements for certain products, and to establish new labelling rules for recyclability and compostability. The Government is also establishing a federal plastics producer registry and working with industry to establish a strong target for collecting plastic beverage containers for recycling.
These measures will also enable innovations and sector-based solutions that support a systematic shift toward a circular economy. In addition, they will advance science and address plastic pollution, including the prevention and removal of ghost gear. Canada has invested nearly $19 million to support Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses in developing solutions to address plastic pollution, including designing sustainable fishing and aquaculture gear and reducing the release of microplastics from tire wear.
These are just some examples of the Government of Canada’s comprehensive agenda to transition to a circular economy for plastics and to help stop plastic pollution.
Canada also plays a leadership role internationally in addressing plastic pollution. Canada championed the Ocean Plastics Charter in 2018, has invested $100 million to support developing countries in improving plastic management and tackling plastic pollution, including through the Global Plastic Action Partnership, and actively participates in key international agreements, fora, and initiatives to address this important issue. Canada is committed to continuing to work with countries and other stakeholders to develop an ambitious, legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution by 2024. The Government of Canada is an inaugural member of the High-Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution.
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