Beginning in 2018, the Government of Canada started broad stakeholder engagement on achieving “zero plastic waste” in Canada. Numerous policy initiatives such as the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste (2018), as well as Phase 1 (2019) and Phase 2 (2020) of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), were published and opened for consultation. This culminated in the publication of a Draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution in early 2020 which received over 70 comments from different stakeholder groups, including over 50 from individual businesses and industry associations, including CPCA. In October 2020, alongside the final Science Assessment, Government published a discussion paper entitled “A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products to prevent waste and pollution“ to outline potential risk management measures on certain plastic manufactured items.
The Discussion Paper and subsequent Proposed Order generated over 171 written notices of objection from individual companies and industry associations including CPCA, 52 of which included a request for the Minister to establish a Board of Review to inquire into the nature and extent of the danger posed by plastic manufactured items. All notices of objection can be viewed publicly on the CEPA Registry. There were only 17 submissions in favour of the Order, yet the Government chose to proceed.
CPCA submitted a formal Notice of Objection to the Proposed Order and extensive comments highlighting serious concerns with the process:
Indeed, CPCA provided relevant scientific data re: microplastics and underlined a major issue with such a broad toxicity declaration, which encompasses the full composition of the manufactured item while there are other ingredients or parts in the ‘manufactured’ item that may or may not cause harm but will be captured and negatively impacted.
The Summary of Comments received on the Proposed Order were grouped into 10 broad themes and can be viewed publicly online.
The federal Government conducted an analysis of the scientific information provided in the notices of objection, including the additional studies. Those maintained that the science assessment presents a thorough summary of the available science in the peer-reviewed literature and considered all data available at the time it was written. Upon review, the federal departments found that no change was required to the scientific findings underlying the Order was warranted (i.e. that macroplastics can cause harm to the environment). To help ensure that this finding was fair, a ‘neutral’ party within the federal government department conducted an independent review of the scientific analysis of the notices of objection. This party found that the scientific process had been respected, and that the conclusion is reasonable.
In publishing the Order, Government has denied requests for the formation of a Board of Review on the matter stating that the information provided in the Notices of Objection does not raise sufficient uncertainty in the scientific considerations underlying the Order.
Plastic manufactured items are defined as “any items made of plastic formed into a specific physical shape or design during manufacture, and have, for their intended use, a function or functions dependent in whole or in part on their shape or design”. They can include final products, as well as components of products. For example, can lining is considered a manufactured item. All plastic manufactured items have the potential to become plastic pollution.
Government has determined that non-regulatory measures (e.g. voluntary agreements, guidelines, codes of practice) alone would not be sufficient to implement the zero plastic waste agenda, and so regulatory measures are also be required. The addition of plastic manufactured items to Schedule 1 of CEPA enables them to propose mandatory risk management measures. A substance may be added to Schedule 1 if it meets one or more of the criteria set out in section 64 of CEPA.
Based on the information in the science assessment, Government is satisfied that “plastic manufactured items” meet the criteria set out in paragraph 64(a) of the Act. The use of CEPA over other existing Acts enables them to access the full range of powers needed to manage plastic manufactured items along their lifecycle.
No specific risk management measures are yet recommended under the Order.
Once measures are proposed for plastic manufactured items (e. single-use plastic ban), Government will develop implementation plans and compliance and enforcement strategies during the development of such measures.
With today’s Order and the outcome of several recent CMP publications, Environment and Climate Change Canada wants to clearly make a political demonstration of action ahead of an imminent election, where the environment will be front and centre to the Liberal Campaign. A federal election may be launched as early as June 2021 given recent actions taken by the government on a wide range of files including a ‘big spend’ budget.
Members are invited to share their views or fears as to how the toxicity declaration of plastic manufactured items will eventually affect the uses and waste management of current plastic supplies.