Enhancing Plastic Recycling in Canada

Our latest report on dealing with plastic pollution calls for the introduction of plastic recycling standards in Canada. This is the fourth report in the series of our work on plastics issues.

Only 9% of total plastic is actually recycled, and 95% of plastic’s value is lost to the economy after only a single use. This habit of using plastic once and throwing it away leads to a massive waste of resources and energy. Prepared for Surfrider Foundation Canada, our report draws from examples around the world to provide systemic solutions to address the problems with plastic in the environment. We show how governments can enhance the plastic recycling system by taking specific actions and following fundamental principles to achieve a circular plastics economy that would save resources and the environment. Examples of specific actions include requiring minimum recycled content in products, developing government procurement systems, and extending producer responsibility provisions. We need to design products that are meant to last, and we need to learn how to better reuse, maintain, repair, remanufacture, refurbish and recycle existing products.

The three previous ELC reports continue to have an impact:

  • The federal government announced funding to clean up ghost fishing gear, which is a recommendation in one of our reports and was a topic of discussion when the ELC was invited to speak with government.
  • After our clients made recommendations to the BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in October 2019 on transforming the dependence on single-use plastics, the Minister announced in January 2020 that the province was preparing to introduce new bans on single-use plastic products and enhanced options for recycling. They said the changes were intended to align local and regional government efforts, approve municipal bylaws to ban the use of single-use plastics in certain circumstances, and move the Province of BC towards a province-wide ban.
  • In September 2020, the BC government acted to approve local bans on single-use plastics and committed to establishing a legal framework to provide for province-wide bans of single-use plastic items.
  • In early October 2020, the federal government revealed details and a discussion paper in support of their commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics by as early as 2021 and to have zero plastic waste by 2030. Acknowledging that plastic is polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans and harming wildlife, a key part of their plan is to ban plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics, which follow recommendations set out in our reports. We plan to prepare a submission responding to the discussion paper.