Canadian government delays ban on single-use plastics to allow for transition period

The Canadian government announced in late December it will enforce a ban on six types of single-use plastics but has extended the time for implementation to 2022 to allow for more consultations and ease a market adjustment.

Straws are included in the list of six plastic items to be banned in Canada but will get a special treatment. Image courtesy of Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay.

“This is to allow for a transition period that is consistent with the environmental expectations of Canadians, while also giving businesses the time to deplete remaining stock and adapt to the new rules with minimal disruption,” the Canadian govenment said on Dec. 21 in a release.

The ban had been intented to become effective in December 2021 but now there will be consultations until March, with the ban becoming effective later this year.

A statement from the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) expressed on Dec. 22 “disappointment” that plastics that have long played a useful role in daily life are being treated as toxic substances.

23,000 tonnes of plastic

“We know that plastics break down into tiny pieces that can get into water streams and be eaten by animals. These regulations will contribute to our commitment to getting rid of certain single-use plastics,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Canada´s Health minister.

Duclos, along with Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, published in December draft regulations on single-use plastics that reflect input from all stakeholders gathered since 2019.

“Tens of thousands of Canadians” have expressed support for the ban on single-use plastics, according to the Canadian government.

“The regulations would prevent more than 23,000 tonnes of plastic pollution from entering the environment over a ten-year period,” it said.

Six categories banned

The banned categories involve checkout market bags, disposable cutlery, food service packaging from or containing problematic plastics, plastic rings, stir sticks, and straws, the statement said.

The government also announced in December that straws will continue to be sold in particular settings where they may be necessary, like hospitals.

“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,” it said.

The coming ban on bags and six-pack rings may impact consumption of polyethylene while the one on straws will impact polypropylene.

Bans on plastic cutlery and drink stirrers may impact both polypropylene and polystyrene demand. Expanded polystyrene is a material often used for portable food containers.

Environmental Protection Act

The government of Canada published in May 2021 an order to add plastic manufactured items to Schedule One of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 or CEPA for its acronym.

CEPA is “another necessary and critically important regulatory step to managing plastic products and set conditions for a circular economy for plastics,” the Canadian government said in its statement.

The consultation period for the ban regulations will run through March 5, 2022. The government encourages “stakeholders, partners and Canadians to participate in the consultation on the proposed regulations.”  

Industry disappontment

The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada reiterated on Dec. 22 that it was disappointed at the government of Canada over the label of toxic substance being applied to plastics.

“While the government has exercised its authorities, we are disappointed that safe inert plastic materials that play such important roles in Canadians’ lives continue to be labelled as Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) toxic substances,”it said.

Plastics should not be “banned when innovative technologies like advanced recycling are available to manage their end of life,” the statement said.

“We continue to believe that CEPA is not an appropriate legislative instrument for managing post-consumer plastics,” it added. The association had already voiced concerns about the use of CEPA to regulate plastics back in May 2021.

15 billion bags annually

“We are taking action to get plastic pollution out of Canada’s communities and our waterways,” Guilbeault said.

In Canada, up to 15 billion plastic bags are used annually. Single-use plastics make up most plastic litter found in freshwater environments, according to the government.

“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,” according to the statement.

Canada intensified efforts to reduce plastic waste after China banned plastic waste imports in 2018.

By Renzo Pipoli