Canada Advances Towards Zero Plastic Waste Goal

Environment and Climate Change Canada

In support of the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste adopted by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the Government of Canada is launching two consultations on: 1) a regulatory framework which serves as a starting point for the proposed Recycled Content and Labelling for Plastic Products Regulations, and 2) a technical paper that outlines reporting requirements for the federal plastics registry.

Recycled content and rules for recyclability and compostability labelling

In Canada, plastic packaging represents nearly half of all the plastic that ends up in landfills. Currently, less than 15 percent of plastic packaging waste is recycled. Labels on plastic packaging that claim recyclability or compostability are often inaccurate, and Canadians are not given clear information about whether an item should be put in a recycling bin, a composting bin, or the garbage. This can result in confusion and products ending up in the wrong place.

In addition, most plastic products on the market today are made from non-renewable fossil fuels. The success of recycling relies on the use of recycled plastics in the manufacture of new products. However, there are several interrelated factors impeding recycled plastic use, including weak markets for recycled plastics, the lower cost of primary resins, insufficient recycling and infrastructure systems, and products not being designed for recycling.

Since 2022, the Government has conducted consultations on rules for recycled content and recyclability labelling. The results of the consultations on labelling are summarized in the What We Heard Report. Feedback received to date has informed the regulatory approach outlined in the regulatory framework paper published on April 18, 2023, which is subject to a 30-day comment period. Consultations will engage key stakeholders and solicit feedback to better inform the development of the proposed Regulations, which will be published before the end of 2023.

Federal plastics registry for producers of plastic products

The Government of Canada supports provincial and territorial efforts to improve recycling systems through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Through EPR, a producer is made responsible for the collection and management of products and packaging at the end of their life.

Currently, reporting requirements for EPR programs are inconsistent across Canada, using different definitions, calculations, and measurements of success. This makes it hard for Canadians to access information or to know how EPR is helping Canada move toward its goal of zero plastic waste. A federal plastics registry would harmonize data, make it openly accessible in one place, and support provinces and territories in making producers responsible for the waste created by the products they sell, thereby improving end-of-life management of these products and minimizing the potential for them to enter the environment as plastic pollution.

The Government of Canada is considering requiring producers to report data on all major categories of plastic products, covering the majority of all plastics placed on the Canadian market. These categories include packaging, construction, automotive, white goods (e.g. home appliances), electronic and electrical equipment, textiles, and agriculture.

The Government recently published the results of a public consultation on the development of a proposed federal plastics registry for producers of plastic products in the What We Heard Report.

Progress to date

On June 20, 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada published final regulations to prohibit single-use plastics, including checkout bags, cutlery, food-service ware made from or containing plastics that are hard to recycle, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws (with some exceptions).

According to a survey released by Statistics Canada on July 19, 2022, Canadians are making progress on moving away from single-use plastics by using fewer disposable straws and relying on reusable bags, water bottles, and mugs. Ninety-seven percent of surveyed households reported using their own bags or containers when grocery shopping. More than half (51 percent) said they did this all the time. Canadians are also choosing reusable water bottles more often, with nine in ten households reporting their use in 2021.

Other key elements of Canada's approach toward reducing plastic pollution include establishing performance standards to increase the use of recycled content in certain plastic products and ensuring that manufacturers, importers, and sellers of plastic products and packaging are responsible for collecting and recycling them. The Government of Canada will continue to work collaboratively with its partners to advance its zero plastic waste agenda at home and abroad, including by working with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, and Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the associated Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste.

As plastic pollution knows no borders, Canada is also working with partners around the world on this important issue. Building on Canada's 2018 G7 Presidency and its role as a champion of the Ocean Plastics Charter, the Government of Canada continues to advocate for the transition to a circular economy for plastics. As part of its commitment to the Ocean Plastics Charter, Canada has invested $100 million to help developing countries address plastic pollution. In 2022, Canada was a founding member of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution and supports its objective to end plastic pollution by 2040. Furthermore, at last year's United Nations Environment Assembly meeting, Canada, along with 175 other nations, endorsed a historical resolution to develop an international, legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution. Canada consulted Canadians ahead of its participation in the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-1) working toward this global agreement in the fall of 2022, and recently completed a similar consultation ahead of the second session (INC-2), which Canada will participate in from May 29 to June 2, 2023 in Paris.

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