Canada may ban single-use plastics by 2021

globe in a plastic bagCanada celebrated Environment Week from June 3 to 7, an annual event established in 1971 to celebrate the country’s environmental accomplishments and encourage citizens to preserve and protect their natural resources. However, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in no mood to rest on Canada’s eco laurels: The Globe and Mail newspaper reports that public officials “will begin a scientific evaluation to designate plastic waste as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the first step to imposing bans on disposable single-use items and introducing national recycling standards and targets.”

The initiative is intended to eliminate single-use plastic products and packaging because, said the Globe and Mail, household recycling is not keeping pace with the proliferation of these items. Only 9 percent of plastics are recycled in Canada, according to the national newspaper. China’s restriction on imports of plastic waste for recycling has exacerbated the problem in Canadian cities and provinces.

Adding plastic waste to the list of toxic substances under the CEPA is justified, Elaine MacDonald of the environmental advocacy group Ecojustice told the Globe and Mail. “It’s a definition under the act and it really is about, [the questions]: ‘Is this substance harming the environment or harming human health?’” she said. “We’re seeing there’s plenty of evidence out there, based on what other countries have done already, based on scientific analysis and studies that have been done."

The ban would follow the EU model, a government source told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and affect the usual suspects: Plastic straws, coffee cups and fast food containers made of expanded polystyrene, and the like. It may also curtail the use of oxo-degradable plastics, which include additives that don’t completely biodegrade. The ban could take effect as early as 2021, according to the CBC, and is part of a larger strategy to tackle plastic pollution that the government is expected to outline today.

Responding to the news report, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) issued a statement today noting that they "fully endorse the objective of stopping waste, including plastic waste, from leaking into the environment," but cautioned against creating an impression that "safe, sanitary plastic materials are toxic through the CEPA." That will make it more difficult for Canada to achieve its zero waste objectives, they said.

Stressing their support of a circular economy for plastics, and noting that several association members are part of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and have committed substantial resources to that initiative, the CPIA and CIAC urge the government "not to pre-determine the outcome and consider impacts throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and their alternatives. Any rush to judgment could have serious implications on industry’s ability to create a circular economy for plastics that supports a national zero plastic waste strategy," they added.

Image: Irina/Adobe Stock

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