Recycled Content & Labelling Rules for Plastics; Federal Plastics Registry   

On April 18, 2023, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) released two documents in support of its zero plastic waste agenda and launched associated public consultations that seek feedback from stakeholders regarding Canada’s approach to reducing and managing plastic pollution. These documents build on previous consultations conducted by ECCC in July 2022.

The two documents are:

(1) Recycled Content and Rules for Recyclability and Compostability Labelling: Regulatory Framework Paper

This document outlines a regulatory framework for plastic packaging and certain single-use plastics (SUPs) that would cover three key elements:

  • recycled content requirements that mandate minimum levels of recycled post-consumer plastics in packaging
  • recyclability labelling rules requiring accurate information be communicated to Canadians on whether packaging or SUPs are recyclable, and how to dispose of them properly
  • compostability labelling rules prohibiting the terms “biodegradable” or “degradable” on plastic packaging and SUPs and limiting the use of the term “compostable” to plastics that meet certain standards and labelling requirements

The change being sought through the framework is necessary to achieve specific targets that support the Government of Canada’s broader goal of moving toward zero plastic waste, including:

  • implementing Canada’s commitment to require at least 50% recycled content in plastic packaging by 2030, as outlined in the 2021 mandate letter of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
  • working with industry towards 100% reusable, recyclable, or, where viable alternatives do not exist, recoverable, plastics by 2030, as outlined in the Ocean Plastics Charter
  • working with industry and other levels of government, to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of all plastics by 2040, as outlined in the Oceans Plastics Charter, and
  • working with Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), to implement the Canada wide Strategy on zero plastic waste

Recycled Content Requirements:

The recycled content regulations would exempt any company from recycled content requirements that, in the previous calendar year:

  • had a gross revenue of under $5,000,000; or
  • placed less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging on the Canadian market

The purpose of these thresholds would be to exempt small businesses, as well as companies that do not place packaging on the market as a part of their normal business operations.

Recycled content exemptions are also in place for certain types of packaging mostly related to health, nutrition or safety.

Plastic packaging is broken down into two broad categories: rigid and flexible which have been further down into subcategories which will have different targets and timelines.

For rigid packaging, subcategories include: PET and HDPE rigid packaging, beverage bottles, other rigid packaging (such as polypropylene, polystyrene & expanded polystyrene) and special categories (rigid packaging used for the following product applications: cosmetics (Food and Drugs Act), pest control products (Pest Control Products Act), consumer products containing a hazardous ingredient (Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001) and foams used for protective packaging where no alternative material can be used).

Flexible packaging subcategories include: waste bags (a bag designed to contain and transport waste, whether to be disposed or recycled, and that may be closed after filling), by average thickness (thick ≥ 35 μm; medium 20-35 μm; and thin ≤ 20 μm): with thinner packaging having lower targets) and special categories (flexible packaging used for the same product applications as rigid special categories).

Reporting would start in 2025 with recycled content requirements being phased-in by subcategories between 2026 and 2030.

In the initial years following coming into force of the regulations, companies would be required to verify compliance with recycled content requirements by keeping records and attesting that the annual report submitted to the Minister is accurate.  Starting in 2028, companies would be required to have recycled content approved by third-party certification.  

Recyclability and Compostability Labelling Rules:

Recyclability and compostability labelling rules would apply to consumer-facing primary and secondary plastic packaging, as well as single-use plastics.

“Consumer-facing” should be understood to mean packaging that individuals would be expected to dispose of themselves, either at home or away from home such as in a restaurant.

“Single-use plastics”, as defined in the Technical Guidelines for the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, would include any plastic product designed to be used only once or for a short period of time for its original purpose before it loses its original functionality, physical capacity or quality or before it is discarded.

As a general rule, recyclability and compostability labelling rules would apply to any packaging typically included within the scope of provincial or territorial EPR policies, as well as single-use plastics. This would also apply to e-commerce packaging.

For recyclability labelling rules, exempted items would be scoped narrowly, and would align broadly with food labelling rules found in the Food and Drug Regulations.

The following activities would be prohibited under recyclability and compostability labelling rules:

  • use of the “chasing arrows” symbol, except in accordance with the labelling rules
  • use of resin identification codes that incorporate the “chasing arrows” symbol
  • any term, symbol or expression that communicates that an item is recyclable or instructs a person to recycle the item, except in accordance with the labelling rules
  • the terms “compostable”, “biodegradable” or “degradable” or any form of those terms implying that the product will break down, fragment, or biodegrade in the environment (for example oxodegradable, oxydegradable, photodegradable, oxobiodegradable), except for compostable in accordance with the rules set out below
  • use of green coloured labelling, striping, or tinting of non-compostable plastic items that are associated with organic wastes (for example food packaging)
  • the terms “home” or “backyard” compostable

The Federal Government is proposing that these labelling requirements for recyclability and compostability be phased in between 2026 to 2030.  

Before placing an item on the market, regulated companies would be required to assess its recyclability in each province or territory where the item is sold (for the purposes of the recyclability test, Nunavut will continue to be considered as one combined market with Quebec) including:

  1. Is the item accepted in collection system accessible to at least 80% of the population in a province or territory?
  2. Can the item be sorted into a bale with a sorting yield of at least 80% going to North American re-processors?
  3. Does the bale have a re-processing rate for North American re-processors of at least 80%?

This then leads to companies categorizing items as:

  • recyclable for items that meet all three criteria in each province or territory into which an item will be sold
  • non recyclable for items that do not meet all three criteria in each province or territory into which an item will be sold
  • collected for recycling for items that meet the first criterion in each province or territory into which an item will be sold

Based on the recyclability category assigned to the item, the regulated party would then need to affix a label to the item. The label design would be prescribed by regulations and follow one of 2 formats. Where components fall under different recyclability categories, labels would need to follow the format shown in the example in figure 4. In this example, the plastic item includes 3 components: a container, a lid and film. In this case, the container, for example, a bottle, meets all three recyclability criteria and must be labelled as “recyclable”. The lid meets only the first criterion (accepted in collection systems) so must be labelled as “collected”, while the film, or wrap around the bottle, does not meet the recyclability criteria and therefore must be labelled as “non-recyclable”.

Figure 4: Illustrative example of a recyclability label

Where there are no separable components, or where all components fall under the same recyclability category, a simplified label could be used, using the format shown in the example in figure 5. This could include for example, a margarine tub where both the lid and container meet all three recyclability criteria.

Figure 5: Illustrative example of a simplified recyclability label

QR codes

In addition to affixing a label to the item, regulated parties would be required to include a QR code that provides Canadians information about the item’s recyclability. The information must:

  • link to a website that is freely available (for example, no fees and no requirements to provide data such as setting up an account)
  • identify the provinces and territories in which the item is recyclable, non recyclable, or collected, as the case may be
  • provide an explanation of why the item is recyclable, non recyclable, or collected, as the case may be, in each province and territory into which an item will be sold
  • provide instructions on how to prepare an item for recycling, such as by rinsing the item or separating components
  • meet a conformance level of AAA in the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and
  • be available in English and French

In addition, the website would need to prominently display the following text and images:

Canadian recyclability label for plastic packaging and single-use plastics:

The Canadian recyclability label is meant to tell you about the plastic packaging and single-use plastics that you buy. The label informs you:

  • if something is recyclable or not, and
  • how to prepare an item to be disposed of

The label can have different symbols that show if something can be recycled or not:

See Table 3 which provides the 3 Canadian recyclability labels for plastic packaging and single-use plastics. The first label is the chasing arrows symbol, which consists of a triangle formed by three arrows pointing to one another in clockwise loop. This chasing arrows has a check mark in the middle indicating that something is recyclable. The second label is the chasing arrow symbol with an x in the middle indicating that something is non-recyclable. The third label is a chasing arrows symbol with 3 breaks in the second arrow in the loop and a check in the middle of the loop to indicate the something is collected for recycling.

Compostability labelling requirements

Regulated companies would be prohibited from labelling items with the term “degradable” or “biodegradable”, or any form of those terms that implies the item will break down, fragment, or biodegrade in the environment. These items would further be required to be labeled “non recyclable.”

Items labelled “compostable” would be required to be certified by an accredited third party to an acceptable standard specification for compostable plastics.

In addition, regulatees would be required to demonstrate that their items labelled compostable:

  • have undergone an in-field test at a composting facility in Canada, demonstrating that the item has disintegrated by at least 90% during the actual composting cycle for that facility
  • are associated with organic wastes, like food scraps and yard trimmings

Items would also need to meet the following requirements, to avoid detrimental impacts of compostable plastic on the quality of compost:

  • the concentrations of regulated metals and other elements in the compostable plastic item would be required to be less than or equal to 50% of the maximum concentrations of Category AA compost as specified in the document Ontario Compost Quality Standards
  • the concentrations of total organic fluorine in the compostable plastic item would be required to be less than 100 ppm

Third party certifications meeting the above requirements would be acceptable.

The Canadian Government proposes that labels on compostable plastic items be required to:

  • display the word “compostable” in addition to language qualifying that this term is specific to industrial composting facilities
  • be labelled “non recyclable”
  • use green coloured labelling, striping or tinting to help differentiate compostable from non-compostable plastic items

Third party certification logos/marks meeting these requirements would be acceptable.


Federal Plastics Registry for Producers of Plastic Products: Technical Paper

To track Canada’s progress in achieving zero plastic waste by 2030, ECCC will establish a Federal Plastics Registry to be able to track plastics in the Canadian economy. Specifically, ECCC proposes that the Federal Plastics Registry will:

  • Require annual reporting of plastics placed on the Canadian market (including IC&I sources) and how these products are managed at end-of-life
  • Collect and publish data on the entire lifecycle of plastics in Canada

The Government of Canada will require producers (could have PROs assist where possible) to report data on all major categories of plastic products, covering the majority of all plastics placed on the Canadian market. These categories include (1) packaging (2) electronics and electrical equipment (3) construction (4) automotive (5) white goods (e.g. home appliances) (6) agriculture and (7) textiles.  Many CHPTA members will be impacted.

The Government will also require that producers indicate all of the StatCan resin types that are used in the plastic products they place on the market. Where more than one resin is used in the manufacture of a product, all known resins must be reported.  This list of 19 resin categories is much larger than found in typical provincial EPR reporting. 

  1. acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene resins
  2. all other formaldehyde based resins
  3. all other thermoplastic resins
  4. high-density polyethylene resins
  5. linear low-density polyethylene resins
  6. low-density polyethylene resins
  7. multilayer/multimaterial
  8. other polyethylene resins
  9. other thermoplastic polyester resins
  10. phenolic resins
  11. polyamide (nylon) resins
  12. polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins
  13. polypropylene resins
  14. polystyrene resins
  15. polyvinyl chloride resins
  16. thermoplastic polyurethane resins
  17. thermosetting polyurethane resins
  18. unsaturated polyester (thermosetting) resins
  19. urea formaldehyde resins

Many provincial and territorial EPR programs have data validation requirements for data that is submitted to them by producers or third parties. The Government of Canada is proposing a phased approach will be taken towards data verification by producers.

Producers submitting data to the registry for the first 2 years after the registry comes into force will be subject to self-verification requirements. They must:

  • maintain records of plastics and calculations for arriving at values reported to ECCC; and

From the third year on after the registry comes into force, producers must comply through the following mechanism:

  • all data points are verified by a third-party verification body accredited to ISO 17029 or other established nonfinancial standards (such as Canadian Standard on Assurance Engagements 3000) to be in conformance with verification requirements

Similarly, there will be a phased in approach for data reporting, which will vary by plastics category, starting with phase 1 on June 1, 2025 and phase 4 beginning on June 1, 2028 and will involve reporting on plastics placed on the market; plastics collected for diversion; plastics reused; plastics repaired, remanufactured & refurbished; and plastics recycled.

Feedback – Next Steps

Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the (1) Regulatory Framework for Recycled Content and Recyclability and Compostability Labelling Rules, as well as the (2) Technical Paper on the Federal Plastics Registry by May 18, 2023. Feedback can be sent via mail or email to:

Tracey Spack, Director
Plastics Regulatory Affairs Division
351 Saint-Joseph Blvd
Gatineau, QC  K1A 0H3
Email: plastiques-plastics@ec.gc.ca

Following this comment period, draft regulations are targeted for publication in Canada Gazette, Part I before the end of 2023. This would be followed by a further public comment period, during which the Federal Government would consult partners, stakeholders and the public on the draft regulatory text. Final regulations are targeted for publication in Canada Gazette, Part II before the end of 2024.

The CHPTA encourages our members to review these consultation documents as many will be impacted by the new requirements and to provide feedback either directly to the Canadian Government as noted above, or if you wish, members can pass on any comments/concerns to the CHPTA at mjorgenson@chpta.ca and we can forward on your behalf as part of an Association submission. 

Source: ECCC, ECCC, Sussex


RPRA Annual Public Meeting & Learning Series Event on Understanding Ontario’s Producer Responsibility Regulatory Framework

On the morning of Wednesday, June 21, 2023, the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority (RPRA) is holding its Annual Public Meeting in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic at St. James Cathedral Centre in Toronto. Later that afternoon, RPRA is hosting a Learning Series Event on Understanding Ontario’s Producer Responsibility Regulatory Framework at the same venue.

Stakeholders can also choose to join virtually as the two events will be livestreamed.

During the Annual Public Meeting, RPRA’s Board Chair Robert Poirier, CEO Frank Denton, and Registrar Mary Cummins will share an update on key activities, milestones, and financial performance from 2022.

The Understanding Ontario’s Producer Responsibility Regulatory Framework Learning Series Event will provide the regulated community an opportunity to network and hear from RPRA and guest speakers about Ontario’s transition to the producer responsibility framework, RPRA’s role and what they can expect from RPRA as their regulator. More information on this event can be found on our Learning Series Event webpage.

Event Registration

Registration is now open and the deadline to RSVP to join in person is May 23.  There is no RSVP deadline to join virtually.

Agenda 

For questions about either event, please contact communications@rpra.ca.