Canadian Plastics

Industry groups push back against Canada’s new single-use plastic bans

The federal government’s plan to ban some single-use plastic products by labelling them “toxic” to the environment is defamatory and harmful to the companies that produce them, industry group say.

October 9, 2020   Canadian Plastics

Industry groups are pushing back against the federal government’s plan to ban some single-use plastic products by labelling them “toxic” to the environment.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson recently announced a list of six single-use plastic items that will be banned because they are both harmful to the environment and difficult to recycle. Plastic straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings, carry-out bags and Styrofoam plates and takeout containers won’t be allowed to be sold in Canada once the ban takes effect, likely by the end of 2021. Other single-use items will be managed by setting standards to encourage them to be reused or recycled. The government also plans to add “plastic manufactured items” to the “toxic substances list” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

But Elena Mantagaris, the vice-president of the plastics division at the Ottawa-based Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said plastic products don’t belong anywhere near a list of harmful products that includes mercury, asbestos and lead. “It’s a criminal-law tool and it’s intended to manage toxic substances,” she said. “Plastic is an inert material. It’s not toxic.” Putting plastics up there with chemicals that kill people is just giving critics of the plastics industry a chance “to use a label for their own interests,” she said. “That’s reputational damage to a sector, suddenly calling it toxic. That’s not fair game.”

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters president and CEO Dennis Darby expressed concern about the impact that these measures could have on Canada and called on the government to ensure it identifies and addresses, in partnership with industry, potential negative impacts. “Plastics are used in most consumer products today because it is the best technology that is available for industry and consumers, and Canadian manufacturers are world-leaders in environmental practices and in creating new technologies to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations,” he said.

Darby called on the government to work with industry to identify more effective solutions than a simple ban on plastics, noting industry is prepared to develop harmonized circular economy legislation across Canada that would include setting recycled content standards, national performance requirements, extended producer responsibility, and define the life-cycle assessment of products.

And from the U.S., the Washington, D.C.-based Plastics Industry Association warned that the new regulation contradicts established science and could undermine the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), harming jobs and economic growth. “The action being taken by the leaders in Ottawa to ban and label plastics as toxic is an irresponsible ploy to create a workaround provincial authority relating to plastics legislation,” said association president and CEO Tony Radoszewski. “By designating plastics as ‘toxic,’ the Canadian government is recklessly making policy that could have significant negative impacts on human health.”

“Simply put, the single-use plastic items we use every day are not toxic, but in fact are lifesaving,” Radoszewski continued. “For over 50 years and investing tens of millions of dollars, we and our members have been working with federal agencies to clearly demonstrate the non-toxicity and safety of plastics. Placing a ban on plastic products will have a tremendous impact on our environment, public health and economic growth. And as is typically noticed with overreaching government mandates such as this, no alternative options are mentioned that will continue to meet the needs and protect the safety of the population.”


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