Canada moves to ban harmful single-use plastics

Today, the Government of Canada announced that draft regulations prohibiting certain single-use plastics have been published for public comment.

It is estimated that the regulations will prevent more than 23,000 tonnes of plastic pollution from entering the environment over a ten-year period—the equivalent of one million garbage bags of litter. It is the Government’s intention to finalize these Regulations and bring the ban into force as quickly as possible and as early as late 2022 after reviewing and considering comments received.

The Government has committed to ensuring all plastic packaging in Canada contains at least 50 percent recycled content by 2030; achieving an ambitious recycling target of 90 percent—aligned with Quebec and the European Union—for plastic beverage containers; prohibiting misleading recycling labelling that is not supported by recycling facilities; and working with the provinces and territories to ensure that producers, not taxpayers, are responsible for the cost of managing their plastic waste.

Background

  • In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily. In addition, single-use plastics make up most of plastic litter that is found in freshwater environments. 
  • Over 35 countries around the world have already taken action by banning certain single-use plastics, including the UK, France, and Italy, and Canada’s approach is in line with other leading jurisdictions such as the EU.
  • In January 2020, the Government of Canada published the Draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution in Part I of the Canada Gazette. The Assessment surveyed available scientific information regarding the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. The Assessment confirmed that plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment, including on shorelines, in surface waters, sediment, soil, groundwater, indoor and outdoor air, drinking water, and food. The Draft Assessment was posted for a 60-day comment period. Additional engagement with stakeholders was undertaken to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the development and implementation of our approach to plastic pollution. The Final Science Assessment was published in October 2020
  • In 2020, the Government of Canada conducted an analysis of available data to determine which items meet the requirements for the proposed ban. This analysis identified the following six single-use plastic items that will be prohibited:
    • checkout bags
    • cutlery
    • foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics
    • ring carriers
    • stir sticks
    • straws
  • Recognizing that medical patients and people with certain disabilities require single-use flexible plastic straws to eat, drink, or take medication, the proposed Regulations would ensure that these straws continue to be available for people who require them and allow for their continued use in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and long-term care facilities.
  • In May 2021, an order was published adding “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and set conditions for a circular economy for plastics.
  • The consultation on the proposed Regulations will run until March 5, 2022.
  • The draft regulations provide a one-year transition period between final publication and coming into force to give businesses time to transition away from the single-use plastics being banned or restricted.. However, the Government is also aware that the market has already made significant progress in moving away from the single-use plastic products that are proposed for prohibition. This includes a number of restaurants that have already moved away from using single-use plastic cutlery and straws as well as a number of retailers that have moved away from single-use plastic checkout bags in favour of reusable alternatives. Therefore, a shorter transition period is being considered. It is the Government’s intent to finalize the Regulations and bring the bans into force as quickly as possible and as early as late 2022 after reviewing and considering the comments received.
  • The World Trade Organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement requires that, with limited exemptions, technical regulations made by member countries provide at least a six-month transition time between the publication of final regulations and their coming into force.
  • With the exception of straws, the proposed Regulations would ban the manufacture, import and sale of the six categories of single-use plastic items, with the prohibition on manufacture and import entering into force first and the prohibition on sale to follow.
    • The proposed prohibition on straws would take a different approach to accommodate people with certain disabilities and those who need them for medical reasons.
    • A number of exemptions to the prohibition on straws would allow access to single-use flexible plastic straws while prohibiting all other types of single-use plastic straws.
    • These exemptions are linked to where and how straws are sold. As a result, the restrictions on the sale of single-use flexible plastic straws will enter into force at the same time as the prohibition on their manufacture and import.

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Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focussed on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law. 

Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of the World’s Leading Environmental Lawyers and one of the World’s Leading Climate Change Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal. Paul is also ranked by Lexpert as one of Canada’s Leading Practitioners in Environmental Law.

As always, these posts  are provided only as a general guide and are not legal advice. If you do have any issue that requires legal advice please get in touch. Our contact details can be found here

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