A new report warns that if Canada continues to rely on provincial recycling systems, the country will keep generating as much as 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year after 2030, despite setting the goal of zero plastic waste and banning six single-use plastics by the end of the decade.
The Recycling Failure report from Canadian environmental advocacy organization Environmental Defence gave eight provinces and all three territories a failing grade in its report card that evaluated policies on plastic waste. Only British Columbia and Prince Edward Island passed.
Without new policy, 88% of plastic packaging will continue to end up in landfills, incinerators or the natural environment, beyond Canada’s 2030 target to begin a new chapter on plastics reduction, the report states.
“But, even if all of Canada’s provinces and territories were to level up to the most ambitious waste management systems in Canada, we will still miss our target,” the report begins. “In this sad best-case scenario, 39% of the plastics packaging generated – nearly 1 million tonnes – will continue to end up in landfills, incinerators or the natural environment.”
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Environmental Defence argues that the real change required to make inroads into the plastics problem is for governments at all levels to adjust their approach and enforce changes on which plastics are sold and how they are used.
Canada’s new single-use plastics ban, for instance, should address takeout beverage cups and lids in addition to the planned action on checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, beverage ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws, the report suggests.
Additionally, Environmental Defence says that Canada continues to have a lack of targets when it comes to recycling being the hero for plastics reduction. Only British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario have plans in place that will be able to measure their recycling systems and determine the amount of material that is collected, sorted, and sent to a re-processor for recycling.
The report recommends that Canada establish a national network of deposit-return systems for all beverage containers that expands to other types of packaging by 2030.
One of the other primary issues identified by the report is that plastic waste generated by businesses is not covered by provincial or territorial rules.
While the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector is the largest contributor to plastic packaging and product waste, Quebec is the only province that plans to require businesses to reduce and recycle their waste by 2030.