Zero plastic waste: Canada’s actions

The Government of Canada is working with all levels of government, industry, non-government organizations, academia and Canadians to take action on plastic waste and pollution.

Ocean Plastics Charter

Under Canada’s G7 presidency in 2018, we championed the development of the Ocean Plastics Charter to move toward a more sustainable approach to producing, using and managing plastics. By signing onto the Charter, governments, businesses and organizations join us in committing to a more resource-efficient and lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship, on land and at sea. Through these partnerships, we can grow the momentum for real action on plastic pollution around the world.

Ocean Plastics Charter

Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste

In November 2018, through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the federal, provincial and territorial governments approved in principle a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. Building on the Ocean Plastics Charter, the strategy takes a circular economy approach to plastics and provides a framework for action in Canada.

We continue to work together to achieve results in key areas of the strategy:

The federal, provincial and territorial governments also adopted a Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste to implement the Strategy. This plan sets out tangible actions and clear timelines to better prevent, reduce, reuse, recover, capture and clean up plastic waste and pollution in Canada.
These actions will help Canada reduce plastic pollution, create economic opportunities to recover the value of used plastics and achieve our goal of zero plastic waste by 2030.

Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste (PDF)

Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste Phase 1 (PDF)

Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste Phase 2 (PDF)

Policies and regulations

The Government of Canada has over 10 federal acts, regulations and agreements that prevent plastic waste and marine litter. In June 2017, the Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations were published which prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of toiletries containing plastic microbeads, including non-prescription drugs and natural health products.

In June 2019, we announced new federal efforts to help meet our commitments in the Ocean Plastics Charter and the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. This included addressing single-use plastics and working with provinces and territories to make producers responsible for the plastic waste that their products generate.

On October 7, 2020, we announced proposed next steps to achieve the goal of zero plastic waste by 2030. One element of the approach is the proposal to ban or restrict the use of certain single-use plastics where there is evidence that they are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available and viable alternatives. This could include items such as plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, beverage carriers, cutlery, and food ware made from problematic plastics. The approach also proposes improvements to recover and recycle plastic, so it stays in our economy and out of the environment. The announcement included the release of a discussion paper that outlines the proposed approach for public comment.

From October to December 2020, Environment and Climate Change Canada engaged with Canadians and stakeholders on its proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products discussion paper by hosting a series of engagement webinars. These webinars provided an overview of the proposed Integrated Management Approach and discussed in more details the proposed Management Framework for Single-use Plastics and the importance of establishing performance standards for plastic products as well as ensuring sound end-of-life responsibility. In August 2021, a What We Heard report was published that summarizes the feedback received on the discussion paper via written comments, the webinars and stakeholder discussion sessions.

In May 2021, “plastic manufactured items” was added to Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).  This means that the Government of Canada can take regulatory and other action in support of reaching Canada’s zero plastic waste goal and setting the conditions for a plastics circular economy. Feedback received is being considered in developing proposed regulations to ban or restrict certain single-use plastics, and in developing proposed recycled content requirements.

Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations

Canada to ban harmful single-use plastics and hold companies responsible for plastic waste

Canada one-step closer to zero plastic waste by 2030

A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products: discussion paper

What We Heard Report: A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products to prevent waste and pollution

Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 10: Final Order Adding plastic manufactured items to Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

Plastic pollution

Greening our government

Canada is driving action within the federal government and taking practical steps to manage the use and disposal of plastics within our own operations. In 2018, we set goals to:

Greening Government Strategy

Government of Canada actions on plastic waste in federal operations

Retaining product value

As part of our work to facilitate the transition to a circular economy and reduce plastic waste and pollution, the Government of Canada will develop a national strategy to encourage the remanufacturing of products and other value-retention processes – VRPs – (such as refurbishment, repair and reuse).

As a first step, a socio-economic and environmental study looking at six industry sectors was published in June 2021. The study provides baseline data on VRPs in Canada and evaluates the benefits, challenges and opportunities of increasing VRPs in Canada. These findings will help inform the development of a national strategy and contribute to Canada’s comprehensive zero plastic waste agenda.

Retaining product value in a circular economy

Socio-economic and environmental study on the remanufacturing sector and other value-retention processes in Canada (full study and executive summary)

Advancing science

World-class, robust science informs evidence-based decisions, spurs innovation and helps to track progress. We support and conduct research that improves our understanding of the plastics economy in Canada.  This includes the sources, distribution, fate and impacts of plastic pollution and microplastics in the environment and wildlife. But we still need to expand research, coordinate activities, support information sharing, and fill key research gaps.

Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CaPSA), released in July 2019, is a framework to inform future science and research investments, as well as decision-making. It identifies areas where knowledge gaps need to be filled, such as for:

CaPSA was informed by two November 2018 events with subject matter experts: the Best Brains Exchange on the Ecological and Human Health Fate and Effects of Microplastic Pollution, and the Canadian Science Symposium on Plastics.

In 2020, we launched two initiatives to fund priority research areas. This includes the Increasing Knowledge on Plastics Pollution Initiative, which is providing funding for 16 research projects to be completed by March 2022. It also includes the Plastics Science for a Cleaner Future, which will fund projects up to $1 million over 4 years.

In October 2020, we published the Final Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution. This report reviews the available scientific information regarding the potential impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. It recommends action to reduce plastics in the environment in keeping with the precautionary principle. It will also help inform federal actions and policies, as well as future research on plastic pollution in Canada.

Canada’s Plastic Science Agenda

The Government of Canada invests in research on plastic pollution in our environment

Plastics science for a cleaner future

Science assessment of plastic pollution

Plastics innovation

We have pledged $20 million in support of the G7 Innovation Challenge to Address Marine Plastic Litter.  It will provide the incentive to develop innovative social or technological solutions for the more sustainable management of plastics throughout their lifecycle.

The Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenges are part of Canada’s comprehensive approach to addressing plastic waste and pollution. This program provides funding to small and medium-sized enterprises to incentivize the development of technology to address plastic waste. Through the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenges, the government is investing nearly $19 million to support Canadian innovators to develop solutions for plastics challenges, by providing winners with up to $150,000 to develop a proof of concept and subsequently up to $1 million to develop a prototype if selected.

G7 innovation challenge to address marine plastic litter

Innovation Solutions Canada – Challenges

Government of Canada supports innovative, made-in-Canada solutions to plastic waste

Government of Canada supports small businesses developing innovative solutions to plastic pollution

Canada unveils support for Canadian innovation by small businesses to reduce plastic waste and beat plastic pollution

Mobilizing Canadians

We are working with all levels of government, industry, organizations and communities to implement plastic waste solutions. Since 2018, we have invested over $5 million in education and awareness-raising activities, citizen science, and community projects and clean-ups. These efforts help mobilize and engage Canadians to reduce plastic waste and pollution.

Through the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative, we are supporting new innovative solutions that prevent, capture and remove plastic pollution and inform sustainable consumer actions. We are also supporting industry in developing solutions for a circular plastics economy.

Canada’s $8.3 million Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program, or Ghost Gear Fund, is assisting fish harvesters, environmental groups, Indigenous communities, the aquaculture industry, and coastal communities to find and retrieve harmful ghost gear from the ocean and dispose of it responsibly so that it can be recycled back into the economy. In 2020, 63 tonnes – the equivalent of 11 elephants – of lost or discarded fishing gear was retrieved from Atlantic Canada. The gear retrieved came from a combination of projects: the Ghost Gear Fund, self-funded third-party projects authorized to collect gear, fishery officer patrols, and fish harvesters.

We also asked Canadians to share their ideas about how we can reduce plastic waste and marine litter. Between April and September 2018, we received over 1,900 comments on the online platform and over 12,000 campaign letters and emails in response.

Zero Plastic Waste Initiative

New projects funded by the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative

The Ghost Gear Fund in action

Moving Canada toward zero plastic waste: Closed consultation

International actions

Canada participates in several international organizations advancing policy and research to reduce plastic waste and marine litter such as the G7, the G20, the Arctic Council and various bodies under the United Nations. We also participate in a variety of initiatives and measures including:

Several legally-binding international agreements have been implemented that contribute to preventing plastic waste and marine litter such as:

As well,  we are contributing $100 million to help developing countries prevent plastic waste from entering the oceans, address plastic waste on shorelines, and better manage existing plastic resources. So far, this includes:

Related links

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999)

Fisheries Act

Overview of extended producer responsibility in Canada

Toward zero plastic waste

Zero plastic waste

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