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e-4029 (Environment)

Initiated by Karen Farley from Waterloo, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • The United Nations names plastic pollution as the second greatest threat to the environment after climate change;
  • The federal government has drafted single-use plastics regulations as a step towards eliminating harmful plastic pollutants;
  • The proposed federal regulations contain loopholes in the definitions which will allow manufacturers to create more durable single-use plastics, including cutlery and plastic bags;
  • The definitions exclude common plastic litter, such as single-use hot and cold beverage containers and lids, and packaging for consumer goods;
  • The proposed regulations allow for the continued manufacturing and export of harmful single-use plastics;
  • These regulatory loopholes will contribute to the creation of more problematic plastic pollution entering the marine and terrestrial environment;
  • Canada needs to create stronger regulations to eliminate plastic pollution;
  • Other jurisdictions, including Chile and the European Union, are leading the way on single-use plastics bans with regulations that Canada could use as an example to build on; and
  • Advocates in Canada, including Oceana Canada, strongly support strengthening the federal government's proposed regulations.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Strengthen regulatory definitions to include more harmful single-use plastic items and close loopholes that currently allow plastic items to be replaced with more durable problematic plastic;
2. Remove the exemption that allows banned products to continue to be manufactured and exported;
3. Revise the retail sales exception on single-use plastic straws so people needing them for medical purposes can request them;
4. Implement a clear and staged action plan to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030; and
5. Bring these proposed regulations into force six months after they are published.

Response by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable STEVEN GUILBEAULT

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) shares your concern about single-use plastics. The Government of Canada agrees that plastic pollution is a global challenge that requires immediate action. Plastic waste and pollution burden our economy and threaten the health of our environment including wildlife, rivers, lakes and oceans.

The Government of Canada is working with all levels of government, industry, non-government organizations, researchers and Canadians to take action on plastic waste and pollution. To reach our Zero Plastic Waste objective, we need to transition to a circular economy. This requires taking action to eliminate plastic pollution at its source and to keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment. The Government is supporting this transition with a variety of tools, including regulations, standards, as well as support for innovation and technology.

The Government developed a management framework for single-use plastics that provides a transparent and evidence-based approach to determining how to manage risks to the environment posed by single-use plastics. To determine if a single-use plastic product should be banned, the framework considers whether the item is prevalent in the environment and whether it poses a threat of harm to wildlife and their habitat. It also considers whether the item is difficult to recycle and if it has readily available alternatives. The Government used this framework to identify the six categories of single-use plastic items targeted by the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, which were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II in June 2022.

As you know, these Regulations prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of single-use plastic checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws. Hot and cold beverage cups that meet the single-use plastic foodservice ware definition are captured by the Regulations. Note that single-use plastic checkout bags, cutlery and straws have reusable substitutes also made of plastic. Those reusable versions are not subject to the Regulations. Performance criteria differentiate between single-use and reusable items for these product categories. The Government is aware of the issue of plastic cutlery and straws that may meet the reusability criteria of the Regulations, but are essentially single-use in practice. Analysis is underway to determine how to address this issue.

The first prohibitions in the Regulations come into force six months after they were registered. The manufacture and import of checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, and straws will be prohibited starting December 20, 2022.

The Government consulted broadly on removing the exemption for export that was included in the proposed Regulations published in December 2021. As a result of feedback, the Government decided to phase-out the exemption for manufacture, import and sale for the purposes of export after 42 months. The prohibition on the manufacture, import and sale for the purposes of export will come into force in December 2025. These timelines allow Canadian businesses to minimize disruption to their operations, while aligning with broader market and regulatory trends globally. It also reflects the Government’s commitments to prevent plastic pollution around the world, including under the Ocean Plastics Charter.

To ensure accessibility, the Regulations allow the manufacture, import and sale of single-use plastic flexible straws under certain conditions. Single-use plastic straws are prohibited by the Regulations, including straight straws and flexible straws packaged with beverage containers (i.e., juice boxes and pouches). The prohibition on the manufacture and import of straws will come into force in December 2022. Their sale will be prohibited as of December 2023, while the sale of flexible straws packaged with beverage containers will be prohibited as of June 2024. Single-use plastic flexible straws, not packaged with beverage containers, will be allowed, but their sale will be restricted as of December 2023.

The Regulations allow packages of single-use plastic flexible straws to be sold by retailers upon request, in packages of 20 or more. Anybody can request to purchase a package of single-use plastic flexible straws from a retailer. This is because disabilities and medical needs can be visible or invisible. No documentation is required to purchase straws. The Regulations also permit people who require single-use plastic flexible straws to bring them to restaurants and other social settings. Healthcare settings such as hospitals and long-term care facilities will also still be able to provide single-use plastic flexible straws to their patients and residents. Thus, single-use plastic flexible straws will remain available for Canadians who require them for medical or accessibility reasons, whether for use at home, in social settings, or in care institutions.

The Government will continue to monitor Canadian litter data and other sources of information to assess the performance of existing management measures and work with partners and stakeholders to identify areas where further action is needed.

Canada works with the provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) to improve Canada’s record on reducing and recycling waste. Together we developed a Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, and are implementing two associated Canada-wide Action Plans to prioritize action that will reduce plastic waste. As part of this work, we, along with our provincial and territorial counterparts at the CCME, recently published A Roadmap to Strengthen the Management of Single-Use and Disposable Plastics. This tool will help guide the prioritization and management of single-use and disposable plastic items.

In addition to the Regulations banning certain single-use plastic items, the Government is developing other actions. We are developing regulations that will require that certain plastic packaging in Canada contain at least 50 percent recycled content by 2030, that will set labelling rules for plastics claiming to be compostable, and that will prohibit the use of the chasing-arrows symbol unless 80 percent of Canada’s recycling facilities accept and have reliable end markets for these products. Working with provinces and territories, we will implement and enforce an ambitious recycling target of 90 percent for plastic beverage containers. The Government is also developing a federal plastics registry to collect data to help provinces and territories design and improve programs to make plastic producers responsible for their plastic waste.

Canada recognizes that plastic pollution is a global issue that requires urgent action. That is why Canada joined the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, and is working with its partners around the world, including through the G7, G20 and various bodies under the United Nations, to advance policy, strengthen science and take action to reduce plastic waste and pollution. Building on the Ocean Plastics Charter, championed by Canada and endorsed by 28 governments and 75 organizations worldwide, the Government of Canada continues to advocate for the transition to a circular plastic economy with complementary actions spanning the life cycle of plastics. This includes our commitment to work with other governments and stakeholders to develop an ambitious legally-binding global agreement to end plastic pollution and advance an agreement that will address the full life cycle of plastics.

Open for signature
May 25, 2022, at 12:10 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
September 22, 2022, at 12:10 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
November 14, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00844)
Government response tabled
January 18, 2023
Photo - Elizabeth May
Saanich—Gulf Islands
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia