Federal Government Initiatives on Plastics

Government of Canada Bans Several Single-Use Plastics

On June 20, 2022, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, published final regulations to prohibit several non-essential single-use plastics including:

  • checkout bags;
  • cutlery;
  • foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics that are hard to recycle;
  • ring carriers;
  • stir sticks; and
  • straws (with some exceptions).

What are the exceptions to the ban?  The Regulations contain several notable exceptions:

  • Waste and bags for containing waste: The Regulations do not apply to plastic manufactured items that are waste, nor to items that are intended to hold waste (and do not meet the definition of single-use checkout bags).
  • Products in transit: The Regulations also do not apply to plastic manufactured items that are transiting through Canada. Whether a single-use plastic product is considered “in transit” is determined based on the final shipping destination of the product. This exception does not include products that are warehoused in Canada and then sold or distributed to foreign customers.
  • Single-use straws for accessibility needs: The Regulations permit single-use plastic straws to remain available in stores and health care facilities for people who require them for accessibility purposes. Accordingly, the Regulations do not prohibit the manufacture or import of single-use straws, nor their sale under certain conditions.

The Regulations come after nearly two years of consultations with provincial and municipal governments, industry and individual Canadians. The Regulations also follow several incremental steps over the past few years, including Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Science assessment of plastic pollution, published in October 2020, and the designation of “plastic manufactured items” as toxic substances under Schedule 1 of CEPA in May 2021.

The ban on the manufacture and import of these harmful single-use plastics, barring a few targeted exceptions to recognize specific cases, will come into effect in December 2022. To provide businesses in Canada with enough time to transition and to deplete their existing stocks, the sale of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023. The Government will also prohibit the export of plastics in the six categories by the end of 2025, making Canada the first among peer jurisdictions to do so internationally.

According to the Federal Government, over the next decade, this world-leading ban on harmful single-use plastics will result in the estimated elimination of over 1.3 million tonnes of hard-to-recycle plastic waste and more than 22,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, which is equivalent to over a million garbage bags full of litter.  Click here for the full news release.

“By the end of the year, you won’t be able to manufacture or import these harmful plastics,” said Minister Guilbeault. “After that, businesses will begin offering the sustainable solutions Canadians want, whether that’s paper straws or reusable bags.”

“With these new regulations, we’re taking a historic step forward in reducing plastic pollution, and keeping our communities and the places we love clean,” Guilbeault added.

Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, said in a statement that Canada’s ban is a critical step forward, but “we still aren’t even at the starting line.”

Greenpeace Canada says the six categories of products only make up about five per cent of the total amount of plastic waste Canada created in a year, according to data from 2019.

“The government needs to shift into high gear by expanding the ban list and cutting overall plastic production,” King said. “Relying on recycling for the other 95% is a denial of the scope of the crisis.”

Why these Six Types of Plastic Items?

While plastic cup lids are one of the top items found on shoreline cleanups, the federal government said that it settled on the six categories of products for a number of reasons: they are found in the environment during clean ups, they pose a threat to wildlife, they are difficult to recycle and they can be replaced with alternatives.

“With regard to plastic lids used for disposable coffee cups in particular, limited alternatives to this item were identified as being available at this time,” the government said in a statement.

The federal government said it is continuing to monitor data and evidence and will decide if other single-use plastic products can and should be banned in future. 

The Regulations are part of a broader initiative by both the federal and provincial governments to eliminate the flow of plastic waste by 2030, as outlined in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste [PDF] and the Ocean Plastics Charter.

While these are the first comprehensive federal regulations banning certain plastic use, several provinces have already enacted various initiatives to limit the use of plastics. For instance, in an Osler Update it provided a rundown of several initiatives taken in Ontario last year. Furthermore, last July, British Columbia amended the Spheres of Concurrent Jurisdiction – Environment and Wildlife Regulation under the Community Charter, to allow municipal governments to issue bylaws banning plastic bags and certain other single-use plastics without requiring prior provincial approval. We expect these provincial and municipal initiatives will continue to develop in parallel to the federal regime, and may impose additional restrictions on the use of certain plastics.

The Regulations represent a significant shift in the regulation of plastic products across the country, which will have notable impacts for industry, retailers and everyday Canadians. 

However, the Regulations target only a fraction of the plastic products in Canada. This shift is part of a broader movement, as outlined in Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste Agenda, which promises further and increasingly significant change to the regulation and use of plastics and other manufactured products in the years to come.

Some problematic plastics under consideration include expanded or extruded polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, oxodegradeable plastic or black plastic made with carbon black, per the federal government’s technical guidelines document.

SourcesGovernment of Canada, CBC, CNBC, Osler
Government of Canada delivers on commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics
Canada is banning single-use plastics, including grocery bags and straws
The Liberal government’s single-use plastic ban, explained
Government of Canada bans many single-use plastics

Other plastics related initiatives that the Federal Government is undertaking under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA)

Some other plastics related initiatives that the Federal Government is undertaking under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), include new regulations on Recycled Content Minimum Standards for certain plastic manufactured items.  New draft regulations are expected this fall or by end of the year.  The Regulations would set out requirements for the measurement and reporting of recycled content in plastic packaging, including annual reporting requirements.

Currently, Canada’s plastics economy is largely linear, meaning that the majority of plastic products are landfilled, incinerated, or littered into the environment at the end of a product’s life rather than being recirculated into new products. Pollution prevention and service-oriented business models that avoid waste and extend product life through material reduction, reuse, repair, remanufacture and refurbishment, are important actions in the transition to a circular economy. However, recycling also needs to be an essential action to manage and recover value from end-of-life plastic products.

The vast majority of plastic products on the market today are made from primary (virgin) resins, which are derived from non-renewable fossil sources (oil, gas or coal). The success of recycling in “closing the material loop” relies on the use of recycled plastics in the manufacture of new products. However, there are several inter-related factors impeding recycled (secondary) plastic use, including weak markets for recycled plastics, the lower cost of primary resins, insufficient recycling and infrastructure systems, and products not being designed for recycling.

The main goal of the government’s minimum recycled content requirements would be to strengthen the market demand for recycled plastics. This in turn would create market pressures for increased collection, sorting and recycling of plastic waste. It would also create incentives for investments in supportive infrastructure and in innovation, such as in improved product design for recycling. As a result, recycled content requirements would contribute to reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills, incinerators and that enters the environment as pollution, while also decreasing the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of Canada’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, the Government of Canada will require plastic packaging in Canada to contain at least 50% recycled content by 2030. This objective is supported by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which endorsed a 50% recycled content requirement in plastic products, where applicable, by 2030 as part of Phase 1 of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) proposes to target packaging in the initial version of the Regulations. Packaging formats can include bottles, rigid, flexible, and foam containers, film (for example, shrink wrap), and others. Packaging has consistently been identified by stakeholders as the most ready for recycled content from a technical feasibility perspective. In addition, packaging rules would have the greatest impact on recycled resin markets. Packaging is the single largest market for plastic, is used by virtually all sectors of the economy, and is the largest source of plastic waste. Packaging products have relatively high rates of collection for recycling, are generally easier to recycle than most other plastic products from a technical standpoint, and are therefore already the largest source of recycled material available for use as recycled content.

In addition to packaging, durable items like waste bins are being considered for the proposed recycled content requirements. These items were identified by stakeholders as having high readiness for recycled content, and an ability to use lower quality recycled plastics that are more difficult to use in packaging applications.

ECCC is considering differentiating recycled content requirements by product application and format, in recognition of differing technical readiness (see list below).

Proposed product scope and timelines under consideration for the Regulations
Short-term (for example, 2025) and longer-term (for example, 2030) requirements, with percentage targets differentiated for each of the following categories:

Beverage containers
For containing carbonated and non-carbonated beverages including water, soft drinks and juice.

Bottles (other than those in direct contact with food)
For containing products such as motor oil, laundry detergent, cleaning products, shampoo and other personal care products.

Non-bottle rigid containers and trays (other than those in direct contact with food)
Items such as clamshells, jars, pots, trays, pails. For containing products such as paints, plants, cleaning products, cosmetics, housewares, electronics, appliances, sports equipment and toys.

Foam packaging (other than those in direct contact with food)
Items such as trays, containers, and protective packaging. For containing products such as housewares, furniture, electronics and appliances.

Film and flexible plastic packaging (other than those in direct contact with food)
Items such as film bags, woven and net bags, stretch wrap, shrink wrap, stand-up pouches, and bubble wrap. For containing or protecting products such as clothing, flyers, housewares, cosmetics, furniture, electronics, appliances, sports equipment and toys.

Garbage bags
Bags of various sizes intended for storage and disposal of waste, excluding organic bin liners.

Waste bins
Garbage, organics, and recycling bins and containers.

For further information and background on these new regulations in development, please refer to the following links:

Technical issues paper: Recycled content for certain plastic manufactured items Regulations

Development of proposed regulations for minimum recycled content for certain plastic manufactured items: Closed consultations

Public Registry for Plastics

The Federal Government is also working on a Public Registry for Plastics (consultation info to be released later this month) as well as a consultation paper on Environmental Labelling early in the Fall.  

Industry concern on the Registry is to avoid duplication with any reporting being done on a provincial level.  

The CHPTA will continue to keep you posted on these various initiatives.

Ontario’s Hazardous Waste Program Registry to Open November 15

On November 15, 2022, RPRA’s Hazardous Waste Program (HWP) Registry will open for users to set up their registry accounts, so they are prepared to meet their reporting requirements and start manifesting on January 1, 2023.

Last week, RPRA hosted three webinars on the HWP Registry which focused on key dates and what users can expect leading up to the launch of the new system.

For webinar materials and more information on the registry, visit the HWP Registry webpage here

Ontario’s Hazardous Waste Program ensures industrial hazardous or liquid waste is properly stored, transported, recycled, recovered and disposed to protect public health and the environment. Under this program, generators, carriers and receivers of hazardous and liquid industrial waste must report their waste management activities to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

RPRA Consulting on Approach to Public Reporting of Resource Recovery Data and RPRA Compliance Activities

RPRA is seeking feedback on what enhancements can be made to their public reporting of resource recovery and compliance information, including hearing what information is most valuable for stakeholders and why it is useful.

Stakeholders are invited to submit feedback to consultations@rpra.ca by Friday, August 5, 2022.

View how they currently publicly report and learn more about the consultation here.

2022 Interim Reporting for HSP Processors Now Open

Processors of categories A, B and C under the Hazardous and Special Products (HSP) Regulation are required to submit a 2022 Interim Report that contains the recycling efficiency rate (RER) of each material at each of the processor’s facilities.

RPRA will be posting an approved list of HSP processors on its website later this year. Processors who do not submit an Interim Report will not be included in the approved list.

The deadline to submit the RER report to RPRA is July 31, 2022.

Learn more about reporting requirements here.

Watch RPRA’s Annual Public Meeting

RPRA hosted its Annual Public Meeting on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

During the meeting, RPRA’s Board Chair Robert Poirier, CEO Frank Denton, and Registrar Mary Cummins shared an update on key activities, milestones, and financial performance from 2021.

Watch the recording of the meeting here.