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e-4066 (Environment)

Initiated by Catherine Ostler from Savary Island, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Foam from marine infrastructure is an increasing source of pollution on Canada’s beaches;
  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as StyrofoamTM, in the marine environment can cause significant harm to marine life, seafood resources and ecosystems;
  • EPS is difficult to impossible to clean up from shorelines after it breaks down and has a high likelihood of entering the marine environment from damaged marine infrastructure, whether encased or not; and
  • The Qathet Regional District and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities have unanimously endorsed the prohibition of EPS in marine environments.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to Prohibit the use of expanded polystyrene in the marine environment.

Response by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

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

The Government of Canada recognizes that plastic pollution affects wildlife and habitats, burdens economies, threatens livelihoods, and impacts the spaces Canadians cherish. This is a critical global challenge that requires prompt action. As such, the Government of Canada is committed to working with all levels of government, industry, civil society and others to reduce plastic pollution from land and aquatic sources and transition to circular and sustainable systems where plastics stay in the economy and out of the environment.

The Government is implementing its comprehensive plan through a range of complementary actions spanning the plastics lifecycle to reduce plastic waste, enable a circular plastics economy and protect the environment from plastic pollution. This includes:

  • strengthening plastics economy and pollution science and investing in innovations;
  • banning certain categories of single-use plastics, including expanded and extruded polystyrene foam foodservice ware;
  • developing minimum recycled content requirements for plastic items;
  • introducing rules to enhance the labelling of recyclable and compostable plastics and better inform consumers;
  • establishing a recycling target for plastic beverage containers;
  • designing a federal plastics registry that will require producers to report on plastics they place on the Canadian economy to support provincial and territorial extended producer responsibility efforts; and
  • working with countries and other stakeholders to develop a new legally-binding global instrument on plastic pollution.

The Government is also working with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and its associated Action Plan. This includes the recent publication of a roadmap to manage single-use and disposable plastics as well as guidance to facilitate consistent extended producer responsibility programs for plastics. Additional work is underway to create guidance to inform consumer behaviours and target plastic pollution sources.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), due to its buoyancy, functionality and cost, is often used in the marine environment for floating structures (e.g. docks and buoys), boat stands, storage, seafood packaging, or in recreational items like surfboards. EPS is also used in consumer goods and packaging such as food containers, cups and lids, and in other sectors (e.g. construction). The Government recognizes that the mismanagement of these materials can result in its breakdown and release into the environment as a form of plastic pollution.

Some efforts are currently in place to target the use of EPS in marine infrastructure. In 2021, the Province of Ontario adopted legislation to prohibit unencapsulated expanded or extruded polystyrene in floating docks, floating platforms and buoys. In addition, some dock manufacturers no longer offer unencapsulated foam.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) Small Craft Harbours program is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Canada’s network of fishing harbours, which are used by commercial fish and seafood harvesters. Over the past 20 years, the program has been moving away from using uncoated polystyrene and adopting other, more environmentally friendly floating mechanisms in the construction of its floating docks. All polystyrene currently installed at these harbours is coated with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is a water resistant material that reduces product breakdown and is more durable in the marine environment.

Another source of EPS pollution in the marine environment is from abandoned, lost or discarded shellfish aquaculture gear in the form of floats and buoys, or as large pieces of floatation for raft structures. While aquaculture is a shared jurisdiction in Canada, the Government of Canada issues aquaculture licences under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations in British Columbia. In 2021, DFO introduced new shellfish aquaculture conditions of licence, which directly address the issue of marine plastic litter and ghost gear in British Columbia’s coastal waters. The new licence conditions support lost gear identification, foam floatation pollution reduction, and regular clean-ups of licensed facilities. DFO also secured $1.3 million in funding for the removal of 13,000 cubic metres of degraded polystyrene floatation from British Columbia’s waters, replacing it with highly durable, air-filled, foam-free floatation. This is the equivalent of 52 billion foam microbeads being removed from the ocean. These efforts contribute to the Government of Canada’s commitments under the Ocean Plastics Charter and the implementation of its comprehensive plan to reduce plastic pollution, including leading several large-scale clean-ups of abandoned and degrading shellfish farm facilities. On the West Coast of Vancouver Island and in the Pendrell Sound Rockfish Conservation Area.

The Government of Canada does not intend to prohibit the use of EPS in the marine environment at this time. The Government will continue to review the performance of existing management measures and will work with partners and stakeholders to identify areas where further action is needed.

Open for signature
June 29, 2022, at 4:15 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 27, 2022, at 4:15 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
January 31, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01081)
Government response tabled
March 20, 2023
Photo - Rachel Blaney
North Island—Powell River
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia