Judge quashes cabinet order underlying Canada’s single-use plastic ban
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A Federal Court judge has ruled that Ottawa's decision to list plastic items as toxic was "unreasonable and unconstitutional."
Canada’s ban on single-use plastic may be in question after a new ruling by the Federal Court.
In a decision released on Nov. 16, Justice Angela Furlanetto deemed a Liberal cabinet order listing plastic manufactured items such as plastic bags, straws, and takeout containers as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to be “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”
The judge’s decision found that the classification of plastics in the order was too broad to be listed on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 and the government acted outside of its authority.
“There is no reasonable apprehension that all listed [plastic manufactured] items are harmful,” Furlanetto wrote in her ruling.
The challenge to the federal government’s proposed ban was brought last year by the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC), several chemical companies, and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. They collectively argued that the federal government had failed to demonstrate that it had enough scientific evidence to justify the regulations. The RPUC was formed in 2021 in response to the toxic designation, and currently includes more than 30 processors and resin makers, including Berry Global Group Inc., CCC Plastics, Dow Inc., Ingenia Polymers, IPL, LyondellBasell Industries, and Nova Chemicals Corp. In a Nov. 16 statement, the RPUC said it supported the decision. “In the interest of Canadians who rely on plastic products that are essential to everyday life, we believe that federal government and industry can work collaboratively to reduce plastic waste and we look forward to developing solutions together,” the organization said.
Having plastic items defined as toxic under CEPA was a crucial step that would have allowed the government to proceed with a ban on some single-use plastic items, including plastic checkout bags, cutlery, food service ware, stir sticks and straws. The single-use plastic prohibition is set to take effect after Dec. 20.
Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that the federal government is “strongly considering an appeal” of the decision, but some provincial politicians are already urging the feds not to do so. “The federal government’s decision to unilaterally label perfectly safe plastic consumer products as ‘toxic’ has had wide-ranging consequences for Alberta’s economic interests and has put thousands of jobs and billions of investments at risk,” said Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Rebecca Schulz, minister of environment and protected areas, in a joint statement. “It’s time for the federal government to listen to the courts and to Canadians. We urge them to not appeal this decision, and to immediately delete ‘plastic manufactured items’ from Schedule 1 of the current Canadian Environmental Protection Act so as to avoid further need of legal action by Alberta and other provinces.”