I see three key gaps in the proposed CEPA legislation.
The first one is that plastics are not toxic, especially when the alternatives are considered.
The second one is that dealing with the root cause of the environmental issue, Canada's hopelessly outdated and ineffective waste management practice, isn't addressed to the extent it needs to be.
Finally, there are the economic and employment impacts.
On the first one, in terms of why plastics are not toxic, plastics are not toxic in any traditional sense of the word. They are extremely stable chemically and do not interact easily with other substances. They are one of the most commonly used materials within the medical industry. Fully 73% of medical disposables on a worldwide basis are made from plastic. Plastic is medical grade. Compared to aluminum or glass, when broken into smaller pieces, plastics do not cause the same level of cutting hazard that either of those materials do. The combination of medical-grade qualities and unbreakability is exactly why plastics have displaced other materials in food and beverage packaging. Plastics deliver products safely, they minimize food waste and they are well suited for transportation.
Aluminum, unlike plastic, is chemically very reactive. That's why every aluminum can produced is supplied with a plastic liner.
Paper is also a wonderful material, but its application is highly limited. Paper-based products cannot perform in applications involving liquids like water or oil without additives or multi-layer structures, including plastic linings. Many polycoated pulp packaging containers use perfluorinated chemicals, PFAS. PFAS do not decompose.
The uncontrolled release, therefore, of waste into the environment is at the core of the toxic argument, and addressing that is something I agree with completely.
When we talk about putting an end to the outdated concept of the linear economy and why the circular economy is key to protecting our natural resources, I would like to offer the following on plastics.
The term “single-use plastics” is a misnomer. The only things keeping the majority of plastics in use today from being used repeatedly are updating Canada's waste management policies into a resource management policy focus, incentivizing investment in recycling, and establishing minimum recycled content standards for all articles, plastics or otherwise.
Nationally, the beverage industry recycles close to 75% of all plastic containers. The technology to recycle PET plastic, the one used in those containers, is mature. It's effective and it needs to be expanded.
Recycling and reuse are a proven solution, but the legislation falls short in addressing this critical issue to the extent I believe it should.
Finally, when we think about the environmental impacts, plastic has the lowest melting point of any packaging material and therefore requires less energy to produce or recycle. Relative to the PET plastic used in a beverage container, paper composites have 1.6 times the carbon footprint, aluminum 1.7 times, and glass 4.4 times the carbon footprint.
PET plastic does also not require deforestation or open-pit mining the way paper and aluminum do.
In terms of jobs, Husky is part of Canada's $35-billion plastics industry, which employs directly and indirectly 370,000 people, most, as has already been stated, in small or medium-sized businesses, a segment that has been devastated by the COVID lockdown structure.
Husky, as part of that, employs roughly 1,100 people in Canada and 4,000 globally. We invest $60 million annually through 190 different suppliers that employ 10,000 Canadians. Over the last 10 years, Husky has paid out over $1.8 billion in Canadian payroll. We are a world leader in Industry 4.0 and on a three-year basis are on track to invest $190 million in our Canadian operations while upscaling our workforce for digitalization. Our goal is to ensure that our Canadian operations can compete with any in the world.
However, since this legislation has been tabled, Husky, and many of our customers and co-suppliers to the industry, have put our investments in Canada on hold.
The right solution, in my opinion, is to engage our industry and its 1,700 small and medium-sized businesses in the solution. The development of the circular economy will create jobs.
In summary, the era of take, make and toss, otherwise referred to as the linear economy, is over, and I think we can all agree with that. We—and I mean all 7.8 billion people on this planet, each striving for a better standard of living—have passed the point of no return. We simply extract more from mother earth far more quickly today than she can hope to replenish. Through public-private partnership, we can consider turning what we call waste today into the resources we use tomorrow over and over again.
Plastics represent a family of materials that are ideally suited to a circular economy. Many plastics are infinitely reusable. They are purified and sanitized during the recycling process.