Graphic credit: Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canada has announced the next steps in its single-use plastics ban to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.

The six items currently proposed under the ban are plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and foodware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

Initially promised by the Liberal Government in 2019, the plastics ban will take clearer shape by the end of 2021, when regulations for the ban are finalized. Canada has also set a 50% recycled content target in plastic products by 2030.

In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily. Local stores will have to provide customers with alternatives to these plastic products, like reusable or paper bags , explained Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

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“Canadians see the effects of plastic pollution in their communities and waterways and they expect the government to take action,” announced Wilkinson, who also noted that these banned items are only a small step that represent just 1% of plastic products used by Canadians.

Canadians throw away over three million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Sources of plastic pollution in Canada

SectorProportion of total plastic waste
Automotive (vehicle parts and components, excluding tire wear)9%
Electrical and electronic equipment7%
White goods (e.g., large and small appliances)4%
[a] Films (including plastic bags), bottles and other items from sectors including food and beverage, healthcare, consumer packaged goods, and cosmetics and personal care, among countless other applications.
[b] Includes chemical products, toys, household furniture, etc. See ECCC (2019a) for a complete description. Source: [Environment and Climate Change Canada]

In terms of implementing new standards for things like the amount of recycled material that will need to be used in plastics going forward, discussions with industry and stakeholders are ongoing, and Wilkinson said that, through cooperation with the provinces, he hopes to have everything finalized within 12 to 34 months.

On October 10, the Government of Canada published a proposed Order to add “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). Consultation on the proposed order can be found here.

Graphic credit: Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Following the federal government’s latest announcement on the ban’s process, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, Jo-Anne St. Godard, said that while the plastics ban is important, she wants to see the government support made-in-Canada recycling innovations and solutions that offer local economic opportunities and mitigate issues caused by off-shore market restrictions.

“What the Government of Canada must also do – with immediate benefit – is leverage its own procurement capabilities to work with suppliers to eliminate unnecessary plastic by demanding products that are made to be recycled and made of recycled materials,” St. Godard said in a statement.

Leading up to the ban, the federal government has published several items on the topic, including a science assessment of plastic pollution. The assessment noted that since the 1950s, the production and uses of plastics (to form plastic manufactured items) have increased at a faster rate than those of any other manufactured material, due to properties such as their versatility, durability, low cost, inert nature (i.e., non-chemical reactivity) and benefits to human health (e.g., in food and medical supplies packaging).

Eco-action group, Environmental Defence, applauded the government’s move to introduce the ban and its unwillingness to bend to industry’s demand for a new plastics law as a way to delay or block federal action.

“Canada needs to put in place a regulatory framework that moves the country towards a circular economy where reduction, reuse, repair, and redesign are prioritized, and recycling is relegated to where it belongs: a last resort,” Environmental Defence’s Plastics Program Manager Ashley Wallis said in a statement.

Some Canadian jurisdictions have been moving ahead of the federal single-use plastics ban with bylaws of their own.

More than 35 countries around the world have already taken action by banning certain single-use plastics, including the U.K., France and Italy.

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