Good afternoon, everybody. I'm sorry for the slightly delayed beginning to our proceedings today.
We are continuing our plastics pollution study. I believe this is our fourth session hearing witnesses. We have two more to go in our very mini-study on plastics pollution.
Today we have Chelsea Rochman, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, who is appearing as an individual. Also appearing as an individual is Calvin Sandborn, legal director at the Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria.
Those two guests will be by video conference. Our practice is generally to go with the video conference guests first while we have the technology working. Then we'll come to our guests in person.
From Dow, we have Michael Burt, vice-president, and Mr. Thurlow, senior advisor.
Mr. Thurlow, we've seen you here before.
From the Smart Prosperity Institute, we've heard from Mr. Usman Valiante previously by phone. That didn't work well, so we're delighted to have him here in person with us today.
For our presenters and our guests, we also have Mr. Lloyd and Ms. Boucher joining us as guests and Mr. Badawey on the Liberal side.
We use a card system, so when you get down to one minute remaining in your time, I'll give you a yellow card. When you get to the end of your allotted time, I'll give you a red card. Don't stop mid-sentence, but wind up your thoughts so we can move on to the next person. That way everybody will get a chance to participate in the discussion today.
Each of the presenters has 10 minutes for an opening statement.
I'll turn to Ms. Rochman for an opening statement. You have 10 minutes.
Thank you, everyone, for inviting me to speak. Also, thank you for the time you are giving to this issue and for your leadership.
I am Dr. Chelsea Rochman, a professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto.
I've been researching the issue of plastic in our oceans and our environment for more than 10 years. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share my expertise with you on this important issue and to help facilitate the use of science and evidence in informing policy.
My work in this field began in the middle of the oceans, aboard the first scientific expedition to the great Pacific garbage patch. Every four hours we dropped our net in the water to quantify plastic at the surface, and 24 hours a day we had observers on the deck of a ship looking for large plastic debris. Day after day we were not seeing much by way of an island of plastic in the middle of the ocean, but on the fourth day, the observers called us all up to the bow for assistance.
On the bow of the ship were two rulers that were being used to count the debris as it went by. Here and there they counted a buoy, a drink tray, a fishing net, but all of a sudden there were too many pieces of plastic to count, and the two observers needed the eyes of many. Looking over the bow of the ship, we saw hundreds, thousands of smaller plastic pieces, smaller than your pencil eraser. This was not a garbage patch. This was a soup of microplastic. At that moment, I knew that this small plastic material could infiltrate every level of the food chain. I also knew this was not an issue of cleanup but of prevention.
Coming back to land, after going through those samples, we found plastic in every single one. We demonstrated a need to shift the conversation in how we were thinking about mitigation. We also demonstrated a need for more science.
Since this expedition about 10 years ago, I have witnessed our scientific field grow globally and expand from the oceans into fresh water, and then, of course, onto land. We've learned that microplastics are not just an ocean contaminant, but also a global contaminant. We've learned that they are found in the stomachs of animals big and small, and that this contamination extends beyond our environment into our seafood, our sea salt and our drinking water.
I have watched the scientific community expand in Canada, and we are finding that we are not immune to this widespread contamination. We find plastic debris on our shorelines, relatively large concentrations in our Great Lakes—sometimes finding more than 100 pieces of plastic per individual fish—and microplastics in the surface water, sediments and zooplankton in our Arctic.
Recently I was in Iqaluit teaching a class at the Arctic College. I walked a city block and counted hundreds of pieces of plastic littered on the roadside. Moreover, when I turn on the tap in my lab, I find microplastics in our water.
What about the effects of this plastic pollution on wildlife and humans?
Large plastic debris entangles and smothers animals and ecosystems, leading to the mortality of individual animals and changes in populations and communities of species. In my own research, I've demonstrated that microplastic can be a source of hazardous chemicals to fish and that this exposure can lead to physiological effects. Other researchers have demonstrated that microplastics can interfere with the reproductive system and lead to changes in behaviour.
Today we tend to ask questions about how microplastics in the environment impact ecosystems and how microplastics in our air, our water and our food impact human health.
A few months ago I participated in a science symposium in Ottawa hosted by CIHR and ECCC. We discussed what we know about plastic pollution and what questions we would still like to answer. Understanding the sources of plastic in our environment, where it goes when it gets there and its impact on wildlife and humans is critical. I want to stress the importance of this and the need for resources for collaborative research. This collaboration should be across Canada, but also abroad to both keep on top of the latest innovations and keep our work locally relevant here at home.
I also really want to stress that while we need more scientists—and I'm a scientist, so I will always say that—I do believe that we have enough evidence to begin to mitigate its effects now. I'll spend the rest of my time speaking about this.
Last year I co-led a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled “Why we need an international agreement on marine plastic pollution”. Indeed, like many other contaminants, plastic is not constrained by borders. It migrates via the air, via water currents and in and out of parts of the ocean that are beyond our national jurisdiction. Because plastic pollution does not observe borders, I do not believe the policy should either.
At this time, there are no international agreements for plastic pollution. I do recognize that the clean seas initiative is a great first step, as well as the new initiative signed at UNEA in March this year, but I think it's time to move to something a bit more similar to the Paris Agreement, and at a faster pace. To measurably reduce emissions of plastic pollution, we need defined reduction targets, signatories, methods of reporting progress, and a global fund.
I envision an agreement whereby countries sign on as signatories with a defined reduction target. For example, in Canada we might agree to reduce 25% of our emissions by 2025. To meet these targets, we would need to come up with strategies to do it, and as we know, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Each country may take on its own set of unique solutions to reach its own target.
In Canada, we might adopt container deposit schemes to improve recycling rates, eliminate the use of some of the single-use plastic items that are unnecessary and not practically recyclable, improve waste collection and management infrastructure and agree to market only plastics that are recyclable or reusable in our region.
For some countries, particularly in the developing world, aid is necessary to build new infrastructure for waste, and I know that Canada has been part of contributing to this. I think it would be useful to set up a global fund similar to the Green Climate Fund. To build this, we could have some sort of extended producer responsibility or a plastic tax. For example, if we pulled in one penny on every pound of plastic produced, we would produce a fund of more than $6.8 billion per year, and growing.
Aside from international policy, what can we do right here in Canada? I think we need solutions implemented at every scale of governance, with a foundation of support for the provinces and municipalities from the federal government. This may be initiated by reclassifying plastic in the environment under CEPA to trigger new policies, maybe by considering a standard for products to have a defined percentage of post-consumer recycled content, to increase the value of recycled plastics over virgin materials. It might also mean harmonizing materials management across the country to simplify what, as you know, is currently a very complex and diverse system. Finally, although policies that mitigate large plastic debris reduce microplastics, we need to make sure that we consider microplastics when we consider all of the policy options for plastic pollution.
Policies specific to microplastics might include, but are not limited to, emissions standards for microplastics such as from washing machines, waste water or stormwater; filters on washing machines to trap microfibres; bioretention cells on storm drains; or increasing participation in Operation Clean Sweep, which might be extended to the textile industry.
With more than a decade of experience researching plastic pollution, I have a vast knowledge base on the issue. I have published many papers about the sources in the environment, where it goes once it gets there and how it impacts wildlife. I have also spent a lot of time advising managers and policy-makers in several countries. I presented at the U.S. Department of State and in front of the UN General Assembly, and I would be more than happy to stay in contact to discuss the state of the science and how it may inform policy around this view here at home and internationally.
In closing, I hope my words have expressed to you that this issue is large and urgent. The issue is also complex. The sources of plastics in the environment are diverse. The types of plastics we produce, sell and find in nature are diverse. The ecosystems and organisms this pollution contaminates are also diverse.
As a consequence, the solutions need to be diverse. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we need a toolbox of solutions that includes plastic reduction, building a circular economy, and improved materials waste management systems, in addition to education and outreach. We also need everyone working together from multiple stakeholders.
I would like to thank you for your leadership, and I hope we continue to ride this wave of motivation and urgency—
Am I out of time?
You'll see behind me the Strait of Georgia, the Haro Strait, which contains an amazing amount of plastic. The latest studies show that any cubic metre of sea water out of that strait typically has over 3,000 particles of microplastic.
I understand that in Ottawa today, you have rising waters there too. As you'll discover shortly, there is a connection between those waters behind you and next to you that are rising and the plastic crisis that we face.
The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria has been working for a couple of years on the plastic issue because it's rising to the magnitude of climate change and is very directly related to climate change. We know that internationally there's a tsunami of plastic, eight to 20 million tonnes of plastic every year going into the oceans. It's plastic bottles and bottle caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers, styrofoam cups, food containers and food wrappers, plastic microfibres and balloons, fishing gear—a very important thing, plastic fishing gear—and strapping bands from shipping.
This plastic is having the impacts that many people have heard about. We know that over a million seabirds a year die. You may have seen the tragic documentary ALBATROSS about the albatross in the middle of the Pacific that are dying because their stomachs are full of plastics. We know that every year there are 100,000 mammals—seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales—that are dying from plastic pollution, and countless fish.
We know the stories about the turtles that mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, eat them, and die. We know about the herons and gulls that are strangled by six-pack rings of plastic. We know about the seals and dolphins that get entangled in plastic bags and drowned. We've all read the stories about the whales that have pound after pound of plastic in their systems, and about whales actually dying as their guts burst from the plastic load in their guts.
For those of us Canadians in cities, however, there's a more subtle problem, referred to by the previous witness, which is the microplastic problem, the large amounts of microfibres in the Great Lakes; the fact that most bottled water that gets tested has microplastics in it, the fact that an international study of sea salt found that there was only one sample that didn't have microplastics in the sea salt. As I mentioned about the Strait of Georgia behind me, Haro Strait, there are 3,000 particles of plastic in every cubic metre, and over 7,000 particles of microplastics up in Queen Charlotte Sound, at the north end of Vancouver Island.
This all strikes home when we look at the recent studies that have been done on Vancouver Island, where every shellfish that was tested in a recent study had microplastic particles in the shellfish, which are being consumed by Canadians. The average, in one study, showed eight particles of microplastic in the average shellfish in British Columbia.
So it's a problem, and it's a problem that is going to get worse if parliamentarians do not do their job.
We know that it's a problem that is increasing; that the production of plastic has doubled in the world in the last 20 years and is projected to double again. There's been a Royal Society study that projects that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Perhaps the most concerning issue is the issue that I mentioned about the floods that are outside the doors of Parliament, the drought on the campus here at UVic, and the wildfires that happened in the last two summers consecutively in British Columbia, where it was kind of like an apocalyptic movie to live in Vancouver or Victoria, as extensive wildfires created a scene where you could not see the sun because of the smoke, and people's health was severely compromised because of climate change.
Eight per cent of oil and gas production in the world goes to plastic production, and 20% of global oil production will be devoted to plastics by 2050. All for what?
Ninety-five percent of plastic value is used for a few minutes, and then disposed of. When the Government of France moved to limit plastic tableware and disposable plastics, they made the statement that it doesn't make sense to use an item for a few minutes and then wait for centuries for it to break down.
We have this throw-away society that we need to address. We're digging up the oil sands and causing a lot of environmental destruction there in order to produce disposable cups and plastic straws. Millions of plastic straws a day are disposed of in North America by McDonald's. Somebody uses a straw for maybe 15 minutes, and then it goes into the environment or landfill. Plastic is also used at Starbucks, where instead of having a reusable cup, people have a cup with a plastic lid that they use even when they're having coffee “For here." Look around at Starbucks the next time you go there. It's filled with people who are using plastic lids that are totally unnecessary.
In your offices, look at the Keurig machine and the mountains of these little Keurig coffee pods that are used and wasted every day.
There are solutions to this, and we've laid out the solutions in our papers, which have been supplied to the committee. There are seven reforms to address marine plastic pollution, and there is a blueprint for federal action on plastics. The solutions are basically to ban certain types of single-use plastics, to follow the example of the European Union, France, the states of California and New York, and the City of San Francisco, and to start banning things like plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic water bottles, styrofoam cups and disposable cutlery.
Deposit refund systems can be used. University cafeterias already use them. People have plates that they pay a deposit on. They use the plate, and instead of having a disposable plate, they take it back and get a refund. Deposit refund systems have worked well for pop bottles.
Regulation of stormwater outfalls has to happen. We should look at the U.S. Clean Water Act, where they've set “zero” limits on plastic in stormwater flows, and places like Los Angeles that require that companies put in attachment inserts to ensure that the plastic that gets disposed of on land doesn't flow into the ocean, because that's the route; all this terrestrial garbage eventually finds its way to the ocean.
We need to regulate microplastics as the government has already done with microbeads. Another very important thing is that the plastic fishing nets create ghost fishing gear that endlessly kills and wastes fish, so you have all these fishing nets and old crab traps that are still in the water out there. They're designed to kill. They kill the fish and the crabs, and it's wasted. Nobody ever consumes it. In Washington State, in Puget Sound, just south of us here, they've had great programs giving federal money to indigenous groups to recover those nets and get that plastic removed that's doing damage in the oceans.
More fundamentally, we have to do things to deal with the problems of extended producer responsibility to make sure that manufacturers of plastic take responsibility for their plastic. Manufacturers of plastic should be paying for some of these measures like stormwater modifications. Costco should take back the packaging and deal with it, instead of having taxpayers pay for it.
The much more fundamental thing is that we have to look at what's happening in the European Union with the circular economy initiatives, and we have to start developing our own plan for a circular economy, a new plastics economy, that is focused more on reduction and reuse than recycling. I say so because I know that the plastics industry people are going to come to you and say, “Well, we'll enhance recycling programs,” but recycling doesn't generally work that well. Less than 10% of all the plastic produced ever gets recycled. You have situations where Keurig coffee says they have coffee pods that are recyclable now. It gives consumers an excuse to use more of the these Keurig coffee pods.
I commend to you the Toronto solid waste department's report on how that's causing great damage to the Toronto solid waste recycling program, because the things are not recyclable, because they're contaminating the plastic stream. You have a company saying that this is recyclable so people will feel okay about purchasing this product, yet it's not working. There are numerous examples of recycling not working.
How much time do I have, Mr. Chairman?
Thank you for the opportunity to express the views of the new Dow as the committee considers its study on plastic waste.
My name is Michael Burt. I'm the vice-president and global director for climate and energy policy. I'm joined by my colleague Scott Thurlow, who is an expert on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Dow is one of the world's leading resin producers, so our interest in the committee work is obvious. Dow takes its responsibility as a leading plastics producer very seriously, which is why we are actively leading and engaged in several plastics sustainability initiatives around the world.
In Canada, Dow manufactures the building blocks for advanced polymers and plastic materials. Our sites in Alberta draw from hydrocarbons to make ethylene, polyethylene, electricity, ethylene glycol and ethylene oxide. We have just over 1,000 employees across the country and over 40,000 employees worldwide.
Plastics have helped improve living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world, especially in developing countries. Rapid increases in income and prosperity have brought many of the conveniences of modern life. It is also worth noting that most recent advances in medicine, avionics and aerospace are due to advanced plastics. They are literally saving our lives.
Plastic disposal has become a global environmental challenge, but it isn't the only environmental challenge. In fact, plastics are a solution to other challenges that we continue to face. As the said just last week, the environmental challenges are deeply interwoven with one another.
Moving away from plastics to alternative materials increases energy consumption by at least two times, GHG emissions by at least three times, and overall environmental costs by four times, and that is before considering food wastage, which carries the heaviest social cost and carbon footprint. As an example, the reason why cucumbers are wrapped in plastic is that they last five times as long on the store shelf. Without the plastic, we are going to have a lot more food wastage.
Our global CEO, Jim Fitterling, has been an instrumental leader in a new industry-wide effort called the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. This, with Dow as a founding member, launched in January of this year. The alliance is a not-for-profit organization partnering with the finance community, government and civil society, including environmental and economic development NGOs.
We're working to make the dream of a world without plastic waste a reality. We have a strong team composed of the world's top minds from across the entire plastics value chain. The non-profit currently has 35 members, but we see it expanding to over 300 members. The alliance has already committed more than $1.5 billion over the next five years towards attacking plastic pollution from a variety of angles, from waste cleanup to investing in technologies, technological advances and recycling and recovery.
We're urging everyone in industry to start investing in technologies around chemical recycling, which is different from traditional mechanical recycling that grinds down plastic bottles into materials, typically flaked, for reuse. Certainly, where a product can be used a second or third time, we encourage that.
Not all products have the same use more than once. For those products, we turn to chemical recycling. Chemical recycling uses chemistry to turn previously unrecyclable plastics into feedstocks and fuels to be used again in the production of clothing, bottles and everyday products.
Our CEO has been clear: “If we can do chemical recycling back to feedstocks and [eventually] back to plastics” instead of tapping another oil and gas well, “that opens up a whole range of impacts on climate possibilities that people haven't thought about.”
Our mission is to end plastic waste. We need to focus these resources to have the greatest impact. It is through increasing the scale of that alliance that we can better focus all our resources. We need to focus governments on the circular economy investments. Canada has many programs in place that can be focused on these types of sustainable investments. For example, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank, Sustainable Development Technology Canada and others can see this circularity embedded into their mandates.
What is Dow doing to tackle these problems directly?
In December, you heard from my colleague about the company-wide initiative that helps collect, sort and reduce the amount of hard-to-recycle plastics going to landfills and gets them into the natural environment: the Hefty EnergyBag program founded by Dow. This program is emblematic of what is needed to make it work—partners. We need partners in place who can support industry-led initiatives. We intend to launch an EnergyBag initiative in Canada this year.
Another company example is that Dow has constructed two private roads in Texas using over 2,700 kilograms of recovered plastic. In other words, that is the equivalent of 120,000 grocery bags. We solved one environmental problem by locking that used plastic into a different use. We have helped other jurisdictions accomplish similar results.
Dow is also a founding member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which collaborates with packaging converters and brand owners to increase production of stand-up pouches that can be recycled through existing polyethylene film recycling streams. Dow's “RecycleReady” technology enables manufacturers to develop packaging that can be qualified for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition's “How2Recycle” label. This increases demand for more recyclable package options. Packages made from RecycleReady technology can be recycled via polyethylene recycling streams such as the grocery store drop-off system in the United States.
As another step, Dow is also driving the development of new commercial recycling business models and growth strategies to monetize plastic waste recycling streams globally.
Finally, we have also invested into the $100 million endowment for Circulate Capital. This incubator will finance companies and infrastructure to help capture and recapture the value of plastics. This is a key role for private industry to create the very partners we need to deal with the actual problem: increasing the amount of product that is recaptured and subsequently returned to the economy.
Dow recently announced a partnership, driven by the World Economic Forum and called the Global Plastic Action Partnership, to bring experts together to collaborate on solving plastic pollution. This partnership is initially funded by the Governments of Canada and the U.K., along with Dow and several global brands, with the objective to have investable localized solutions in place by 2020. It is our sincere hope that these local solutions can be adapted and implemented in other countries. The first project is a collaboration with the Government of Indonesia.
In conclusion, let me state a few things clearly for the record. We do not believe that any plastics should be released into the environment. We are strong supporters of improved plastic waste collection. We see the waste of plastic as a loss of resource. The very future that makes plastic so attractive for packaging and the so-called single-use plastics is the very future that leads to its disposal: it is inexpensive.
As far as recommendations go, first and foremost, we urge the committee to not finalize its recommendations till the CCME has completed its work. This issue is one that requires multiple levels of governments to agree on a path forward. For example, haphazard plastic bans will most directly affect the poorest Canadians, who will see the price of food increase due to waste, spoilage and increased fuel costs arising from more trips to carry the amount of food or heavier loads.
Second, we need to see the value of these plastics and treat used plastics as a resource instead of a waste. This is how we can get plastics out of the environment. It will prevent all global citizens from tossing away these valuable substances. Recycling targets for new content are one way to assist in this goal. As you have heard from the CIAC, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, it has already made pledges in this regard. Ultimately, the world needs to continue to benefit from these plastics while limiting the environmental downside of these materials.
Finally, we recommend that this committee follow its own recommendations from the review of CEPA tabled two years ago. The committee recommended “that Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada adopt a life-cycle approach to assessing and managing substances under CEPA.”
In conclusion, projections are that plastic packaging is expected to quadruple in use by 2050. We believe that something else beyond just mechanical recycling needs to be utilized in order to have any chance to reach the new aggressive zero-waste goals. Mechanical recycling alone will not get you to 100% diversion of plastics from landfill, and it will not get us to full circularity of plastics. We believe that this “something else” is chemical recycling via energy recovery conversion technologies.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I would welcome any questions later.
Thanks for allowing me to appear today.
I'm going to be speaking on and basically delivering a précis of some work that I did for the Smart Prosperity Institute here in Ottawa, called “A Vision for a Circular Economy for Plastics in Canada”. That work itself was precipitated by the work that my colleagues and I did for the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in looking at the barriers to a circular economy for plastics.
Just to provide some context today, we generate in Canada about 3.3 million metric tons of waste plastic. These are 2016 numbers. Of that, we recycle nine per cent. The remaining 91% is either sent to landfills or is burned in energy from waste. About one per cent, or 29,000 metric tons, is discharged into the environment as litter. That's the context for what we're talking about.
It's an enormous amount of material, and that material, effectively, is congealed hydrocarbons. It's what we use to make plastics today. As pointed out by Michael, plastic is cheap. One of its advantages is that it's cheap to make, so we use it in a wide range of applications. It's highly flexible in its use and it delivers a lot of value, but that lack of price associated with it means that it's much cheaper to go and extract more raw materials and make more plastic than it is to recover plastic and recycle it in a meaningful way. We have this fundamental disconnect in economics between virgin plastics and plastics that end up as waste and recovering those plastics.
Why is plastic so cheap? Some of that is due to direct subsidies that we give for fossil resources. The plastics manufacturing sector is very large and it has large-scale efficiencies. It's integrated into the oil and gas sector and it's part of the petrochemical sector.
To give you some idea of scale.... Again, these are numbers that came from Deloitte and recent Deloitte work in addition to the numbers I stated earlier. This is all from analysis done by Deloitte. The virgin plastics production sector is 30 times the size of the recycling industry in Canada today. That will give you an idea of the scale efficiencies that exist for the production of virgin plastics. Then we have disposal, which is unpriced, so today you can dump plastics into the landfill and there's very little cost for disposing of them or sending them to energy from waste.
We talk of trying to aspire to a circular economy as a sort of aspiration to where we want to get to with plastics. A circular economy for plastics, in its end state or optimal state, would be about capturing carbon dioxide and using solar hydrogen to produce ethylene and to produce plastic.
We could use carbon capture. I live in Squamish, British Columbia. We have a company there called Carbon Engineering, which recently got a lot of investment, and it's doing carbon capture. It can produce diesel fuel from carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere. With our chemistry today, and given existing chemistries, we could produce ethylene through a set of chemistries that would utilize that carbon dioxide and solar hydrogen.
Now you've locked carbon dioxide into plastic, and then, as pointed out by Michael, there are recycling technologies on the other end when you're done with it. These are mechanical recycling, which grinds up plastic and makes it available for the next cycle of production, and chemical recycling, which is nascent in Canada. There are a lot of emerging players in the chemical recycling industry that use various chemical processes to break plastics down into their building-block hydrocarbons—what are called monomers—and then re-form those monomers to create polymers again. They're going from plastic to plastic using chemical recycling.
The chemical recycling is not yet at commercial scale, and the chemical recycling industry suffers from not having enough of a clean supply of plastics from collection and not enough demand. Again, demand is driven by the value of plastic once it's recycled, against the price of plastic as a virgin resource, so we have an economic disconnect. Recycled plastic is generally more expensive than virgin resources, so that is a hurdle that we're going to have to overcome.
The benefit of a circular economy for plastics is manifest. You generate between three to five metric tons of greenhouse gases for every ton of polyethylene you produce. That varies across the world depending on energy inputs and manufacturing practices. When you recycle plastic, you can avoid 70% of those greenhouse gases even though the plastic was made from fossil resources. A tremendous amount of greenhouse gases and greenhouse gas emissions can be avoided through polymer recycling or through mechanical recycling.
The other opportunities are purely economic. If we were to recycle 90% of this resource that's being wasted today, Deloitte estimates an avoided-waste-disposal cost of about $500 million a year, avoided greenhouse gases of 1.8 million metric tons associated with recycling 90% of the waste plastic that I identified, and a recycled value of about $10 billion Canadian. They estimate there would be 17,000 direct incremental jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs.
The circular economy has an economic promise to it. Certainly when recycling gets to scale, the same companies that are producing virgin plastics today will more than likely be in the recycled plastics business because it will be a money-maker. It will deliver the same value that we get today from virgin plastics but without the waste.
For this last segment, I want to talk about the policy mechanisms to overcome the barriers that I have identified.
We've heard of extended producer responsibility. That is the idea that you make manufacturers of products or users of packaging responsible for the collection and recycling of those products and packaging. I'm talking about a wide range of products. We typically think of plastics embedded in packaging, but I'm talking about end-of-life vehicles, appliances, electronics. Plastics are ubiquitous. They are used throughout our economy. We need to create performance standards to have those plastics collected and recycled.
Today, a lot of those plastics are not recyclable. We have stringent performance standards for recycling. We will get what's called technological forcing. Some of these new approaches to recycling will become viable. Innovation will occur in trying to reach these recycling targets. What isn't recyclable today will become recyclable both through innovation in recycling technologies and in the reformulation of packaging or in how plastics are used, how they are bonded and laminated together, and how they are mixed with other materials. We'll get product and packaging design when we start to push stringent standards under extended producer responsibility.
EPR, as it's called, will also ensure that materials are collected in a way that they can be recycled. We've heard of deposit-return systems. We have curbside recycling systems and recycling in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. How we collect materials will determine how we can recycle those materials. EPR tends to be a supply chain exercise. It will start to reform how we engage in our recycling practices today.
You've also heard from the other speakers on recycled content. If we have extended producer responsibility creating a supply of plastics, recycled content mandates will now create demand for that recycled plastic to be incorporated into products and packaging. When we start looking at different products in the economy, we can set performance standards for 30%, 40%, or 50% recycled-content requirements that then require manufacturers to draw in that recycled plastic. The combination of extended producer responsibility and recycled content standards now starts to create scale efficiencies. You now have a pull for that and demand for that recycled plastic.
Government procurement is a very, very powerful tool. Governments across Canada at all three levels are large consumers of plastic products and services that use plastics. The recycled-content standards or renewable-chemistry-plastic standards that get written into government procurement will start to create demand for recycled plastics as well. Policies around green procurement or procurement of low-carbon plastics will definitely have an impact.
I think a critical thing that needs to happen if we're going to get these large-scale supply chains under extended producer responsibility is that the rules for extended producer responsibility need to be consistent across the country. When we as Canadians think of recycling systems, we think of our blue box at the corner, and we recycle typically at the municipal level. Recycling needs to go up to provincial and even regional levels to create the supply chains with scale efficiencies. That is going to require these policies to be harmonized at a national level so the rules are the same across provinces.
That's my time.
That's a good question.
From Dow's perspective, we take ethane and turn it into polyethylene, so we're fairly agnostic as to where the ethane comes from. However, it is a by-product of natural gas production. In Europe, they crack naphtha, which is a by-product of oil production.
The reality is that with advanced chemical recycling, you have an opportunity to get into a feedstock that is readily available. As I said, we like to see waste plastic not really treated as a waste but as a resource.
The global consumption of plastic exceeds GDP every year. We don't see that waning at all in the future. We're not advocating any major increases in the use of plastic or any major reduction in the use of plastic. That's just the reality of the economics that we have around the globe right now. Most of the plastic growth is in the developing countries.
The attributes that plastic have are that it is inexpensive to produce, long-lasting, highly flexible in its applications and it makes life much easier when it comes to handling products. We don't see that reducing. As to projections that have been commented on by a couple of other speakers, we only see plastic utilization going up.
The way to reconcile that with the impact on the environment is that you're going to have to increase substantially—hopefully, to 100%—the amount of plastic that gets recycled.
I don't really see a catch-22 or a conflict between oil and gas operations and petrochemical operations. As peak oil production stabilizes and begins to reduce, you will probably still have quite a bit of it going to plastic manufacturing. That, in conjunction with the amount of raw material feedstock that you would get from the recycled plastic, whether it's flake from mechanical recycling or the monomers that we get when we do chemical recycling, I think will balance out at the end of the day.