The Announced Ban
On October 7, 2020, the Environment Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, announced a future ban on certain single-use plastics.1 Defined as "designed to be thrown away after being used only once", the sanctioned list consists of:
- plastic check-out bags,
- plastic straws,
- stir sticks,
- six-pack rings,
- plastic cutlery, and
- food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics.
The news complements a larger government mandate to eliminate certain plastic pollution by 2030.
Banning these single-use plastics will require food service, hospitality and retail businesses, among others, to provide alternatives. Organizations may also consider redesigning products or developing innovative new technologies to support the regenerative life cycle of such products, from the production of alternative products to the technology necessary to collect, compost and reproduce these products for use again.
Rationale for the Ban
Under a corresponding discussion paper titled "A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products to prevent waste and pollution" (the Discussion Paper), the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) analyzed a variety of products to determine which items were appropriate to restrict. 2 These items have all been categorized as being problematic from an environmental and value recovery standpoint, meaning:
- scientific evidence supports its prevalent and harmful effects on the environment, and
- the items are difficult or expensive to recycle.
An additional consideration included the prevalence of readily available alternatives for the products.
In the Discussion Paper, the banned six items are contrasted with personal protective equipment (PPE), which include single-use products like masks and gloves. The use of PPE has skyrocketed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the government will continue to consider how these products will be incorporated in a circular plastic economy.
Regulations will also look to expand end-of-life responsibility, which are policies to facilitate an increased onus on sustainable plastic production and recycling.
The ECCC is accepting comments on the Discussion Paper, including its categorization and proposed management process. The deadline to submit feedback is December 9, 2020 in order to develop final regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) potentially as early as the end of 2021. Please contact Lara Nathans, Miranda Lam, Eric Block or Martha Harrison to learn more or assist with the feedback process.
The plastics industry in the United States have already raised potential trade implications associated with the proposed ban. The new USMCA contemplates regulatory harmonization, minimization of technical barriers to trade, and is meant to ensure that domestic producers do not enjoy unfair advantages over other producers in North America. Under the treaty, signatories are permitted to regulate in accordance with human health and safety, but economic impacts may be further addressed. We expect that industry will be actively engaged in the trade and regulatory review.
In addition to partnering with stakeholders like provincial, territorial and municipal governments, the Federal Government will also work with "Northern, remote and Indigenous communities to take into account their unique circumstances".
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