The Canadian government has published its draft regulations to prohibit certain single-use plastics and is inviting public comment.
The ban will include checkout bags, cutlery, food-service ware made from or containing problematic plastics, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws. There is a crucial loophole however: the draft rules allow Canadian manufacturers to continue producing these materials for export.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and the Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said in the announcement the proposed regulations are based on input sought by the government since 2019.
A 2019 report from Environment and Climate Change Canada found about $10 billion worth of “virgin” plastics are manufactured annually by Canadian companies. Virgin plastic is produced using natural gas or crude oil with zero recycled materials.
Prevent one million bags of plastic waste
The federal government intends to institute these regulations “as early as late 2022.” There could be an extension to allow for restaurants and other businesses to adapt, which would delay full implementation.
It’s estimated the regulations would prevent over 23,000 tonnes of plastic pollution from entering the environment over a 10-year period — the equivalent of one million garbage bags of litter.
“We are taking action to get plastic pollution out of Canada’s communities and our waterways. The proposed ‘Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations’ are a big step forward in our goal to reduce plastic pollution and move to a circular economy for plastics,” said Guilbeault in a statement.
“Smart, clear and collaborative regulations will help drive innovation across the country as reusable and easier-to-recycle items take their place in our economy.”
The government also plans to ensure all plastic packaging in Canada contains at least 50 per cent recycled content by 2030, which it says would help achieve an ambitious recycling target of 90 per cent.
As a followup to the proposed regulations, the government has also posted Guidance for selecting alternatives to the single-use plastics in the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. It can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF.
Recent movement on the plastics front
This announcement came shortly after Walmart Canada announced it would phase out all single-use plastic bags by Earth Day 2022, which the corporation stated would remove 750 million bags from circulation. Several other major retailers, including Sobeys and Costco, have already eliminated plastic grocery bags.
Nova Scotia also announced it will consult with stakeholders starting in January on an expanded use of extended producer responsibility (EPR). Such policies make producers or retailers shoulder the financial and/or physical responsibility for the post-consumer stage of the products they sell.
In this case, that expansion would involve plastics.
In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used each year, along with 57 million plastic straws daily.