2019 Highlight #1: Taking Action on Reducing Plastics Pollution

Over the past year, ELC staff and students have continued to work extensively to develop strategies to deal with plastics pollution. Our contributions have started to generate action at the political level, including a commitment this summer from the federal government to ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021.

Over the past two years, the ELC has played a key role in bringing the regulation of plastic pollution to the centre of public debate. We released two reports prepared for the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation on how a national plastics strategy could eliminate plastic waste, co-authored an opinion article with Margaret Atwood, and were invited to meetings with politicians from both government and opposition. We focused on Canada championing plastics reduction at the 2018 G7 summit, and saw Ottawa commit to promoting an international Zero Plastics Waste Charter. The federal government recognized the ELC’s initiatives in December 2018 when the House of Commons unanimously passed MP Gord Johns’ Motion M-151 – a resolution calling on all levels of government to establish a national strategy to combat marine plastic pollution.

This year, NDP MP Nathan Cullen tabled the Zero-Waste Packaging Act, which would require that all consumer product packaging is either recyclable or compostable. ELC Legal Director Calvin Sandborn presented our work on marine plastics pollution at the University of Oregon, which led to international interest, and then testified about plastics before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (at 15:15, and Ottawa MP Will Amos mentions ELC at 16:16:47.) A month later, the federal government announced that it would implement a ban on harmful single-use plastics and hold companies responsible for plastic waste. This was a major victory, and media acknowledged that the seed of this idea began at the ELC.

We then turned our attention to sparking action at a provincial level by preparing a submission for Kids for a Plastic-Free Canada calling on BC to enact North America’s most comprehensive controls on single-use plastics and related disposable waste. The report was filed in response to the provincial government’s consultation on single-use plastics, and our clients personally presented it to Minister of Environment in October 2019 at a public event at the Legislature. In 2020 and 2021 look for a comprehensive plastics law reform platform for BC and Canada that the Environmental Law Alliance International is looking forward to using in their global work.


Seven Reforms to Access Marine Plastic Pollution reviews what jurisdictions around the world are doing to regulate single-use plastics, regulate stormwater outfalls, regulate microplastic pollution, clean up derelict fishing gear, extend responsibility to producers to deal with used plastics, educate the public and conduct beach cleanups, and redesign the plastic economy to reduce plastic garbage.

A National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution: A Blueprint for Action outlines exact actions that Ottawa could take to address marine plastic pollution, identifies the constitutional powers that allow Parliament to lead a national effort, and sets out concrete actions Canada can take to set a global example on marine plastics.

The Case for Reform:  BC Must Regulate Single-Use Plastics calls on BC to ban single-use plastics, such as plastic shopping bags, plastic straws (with accessibility exemptions), plastic coffee drink accessories, Styrofoam cups and food containers. It also calls for government to establish a comprehensive single-use plastic strategy that emphasizes the need to prioritize “reduce” and “re-use of materials” solutions above recycling; establishes standards and certifications to regulate misleadingly labelled “compostable plastics”; restricts the default use of disposable cups for in-house beverages; requires prepared food and drink sellers to reduce numbers of disposable cups used (made of all materials); encourages systems that help retailers provide for practical re-use of take-out containers; establishes broad civil society partnership to develop innovative technologies and pilot programs; and substantially increases the deposit required for beverage containers.