The plastics industry in the United States and Canada opposes the Canadian government’s inclusion of “items made of plastic” in Appendix 1 of Canada’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). The move allows the country’s ministers to propose measures to address the potential environmental risks associated with plastic pollution of these items.
According to Canada Gazette Part II published on May 12, a consultation process took place prior to the resolution being published. During this process, 123 industry associations or individual companies, two provincial governments and one foreign government spoke out against the proposed arrangement.
“Several industry stakeholders argued that CEPA was not the appropriate tool for disposing of plastic waste and instead suggested that new laws be introduced or that the federal government mandate provincial and territorial governments to deal with the problem,” the Canada Gazette Part II read “The departments responded that they will work with partners and stakeholders to ensure that any risk management measures developed under CEPA are appropriate, fit for purpose and avoid unintended consequences.”
According to Canada Gazette Part II, some industry stakeholders, including local plastics manufacturers and recyclers, say adding plastic items to Appendix 1 to CEPA could result in “economic damage from lower investment, lower consumer demand, or higher costs. In particular, they pointed out potential import restrictions, increased handling and transport costs and an increased compliance burden, for example the need to update safety data sheets. “
Some stakeholders called for greater collaboration on new recycling and disposal technologies to improve waste management as an alternative to ordering.
The Canadian government says the ordinance does not prohibit or restrict the use of items made from plastic, although others say it is the first step towards a possible ban on certain single-use plastic items. In fact, Canada’s Environment Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson announced six single-use plastic items – straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings, tote bags, expanded Styrofoam sheets, and removable containers – that will be banned because they are environmentally harmful and difficult to recycle.
The Federation of the Chemical Industry of Canada (CIAC), Ottawa, Ontario, has expressed disappointment with the move. In a press release, the CIAC said it was “concerned” that the decision “sends the wrong message to global chemical investors that Canada is ambivalent about the huge investment prospects for the circular plastics economy”.
The press release also states: “CIAC continues to believe that CEPA is not an appropriate legal instrument for the management of post-consumer plastics. For this reason, we advocate a national framework for the circular economy instead, which includes six strategic priorities for building a circular economy for plastics in Canada. “This framework includes product design, improved access to recycling and collection, improved sorting capabilities, improved mechanical and advanced recycling capabilities, growth and expansion of end markets, and consumer engagement and education.
The CIAC adds, “We will continue to work with the federal government to understand the magnitude of the business impact resulting from regulations expected later this year. Our attention remains focused on working with the provinces to advance expanded coast-to-coast producer responsibility initiatives and create a better political and investment environment in support of a circular economy for plastics. “
Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), based in Washington, also made a statement on the resolution stating, “America’s plastics manufacturers are determined to end plastic waste, but they have” items made from plastic “CEPA Toxic” can cause undue alarm and confusion for consumers who have relied on these helpful, well-researched plastic products for decades. Banning efficient plastic products is likely to result in forced substitutions with alternatives that increase greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the transition to a low-carbon future. “
The ACC refers to a study by Trucost that was found by the sponsored trade group that replacing common plastic packaging and products with alternatives would increase environmental costs nearly four times, while a second ACC-sponsored study found that switching from plastic packaging to alternatives environmental costs would increase the amount of packaging, which is produced annually by 55 million tons, and increase greenhouse gas emissions by 130 percent.
The Plastics Industry Association, Washington, also issued a press release on the contract saying it “opens the door to establishing rules to officially ban certain types of plastic products.”
Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the association, says such a label could have harmful effects on cross-border trade.
“Both of our countries are strong plastics economies,” he says. “This development is a symbolic gesture for activists and threatens trade in the tens of billions. The idea that plastic is toxic is the real danger. Such a label could have effects well beyond some single-use items. It could speed up more bans on other consumer products that are fully recyclable. Our main concern should be improving recycling.
“Banning a material that changed modern medicine in the name of public health is absurd, especially during a pandemic that requires plastic gloves, masks, ventilators, vaccine packaging and more. When we are this close to real solutions, we shouldn’t be pursuing guidelines that reverse the course of progress and punish ordinary people. “