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.
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:
- product design
- single-use plastics
- collection systems
- recycling capacity
- consumer awareness
- aquatic activities
- research and monitoring
- global action
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.
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:
- divert at least 75% of plastic waste from federal operations by 2030
- eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in government operations, meetings and events
- purchase more sustainable plastic products that can be reused, recycled, repaired or repurposed.
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.
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:
- detecting plastics in the environment
- understanding and mitigating potential impacts on wildlife, human health and the environment and,
- advancing sustainable plastic production, recycling and recovery.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Arctic Council Desktop Study on Marine Litter including Microplastics in the Arctic
- Commission for Environmental Cooperation: Reducing Marine Litter
- Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations Code of Conduct on Responsible Fishing
- Global Ghost Gear Initiative
- G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter (PDF)
- G7 Bologna Environment Minister's Meeting Communique: 5-year Bologna Roadmap (PDF)
- G7 Toyama Framework on Material Cycles (PDF)
- G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter (PDF)
- G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter (PDF)
- United Nations Clean Seas Campaign
- United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions
- United Nations Global Partnership on Marine Litter
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Several legally-binding international agreements have been implemented that contribute to preventing plastic waste and marine litter such as:
- The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
- The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
- The London Convention and Protocol to prevent marine pollution by dumping at sea
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:
- $65 million through the World Bank ProBlue fund
- $6 million to strengthen innovative private-public partnerships through the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership
- $9 million to the Incubation Network to prevent plastic waste from entering the world’s oceans
- $20 million to help implement the G7 Innovation Challenge to Address Marine Plastic Litter
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