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View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
I now call to order meeting number 24 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and our first order of business is to welcome our new clerk, Ms. Angela Marie Crandall. I would also like to welcome a great poet, Mr. Bachrach, who read us his poem about Mr. Bittle as part of this committee's sound check tradition.
As you know, this is our first meeting on the single-use plastic items study, but first I would like to ask that someone move the adoption of the steering committee report. Indeed, everything that follows is anchored in that report, if it is approved.
I saw two raised hands.
Mr. Bittle, you have the floor.
View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I have a very brief point of order, after which I will turn it over to Mr. Longfield to move the report, if that's why he's raising his hand.
Before we get started, I wanted to briefly address a mistake made by our office. This morning the steering committee motion was shared with parliamentary officials and other exempt staff. This was done to ensure that we had the appropriate departmental officials scheduled to respond to the requirements of the steering committee motion, including for our meeting on Wednesday, in the event it was adopted. This was an error, and I've reminded staff that the steering committee motions are confidential until passed.
As parliamentary secretary, I'm accountable, and I apologize to members of the committee for this error. I've spoken to the staff and they have apologized to me for this error, and I apologize to the committee. I want to assure you that this won't happen again.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Bittle.
Go ahead, Mr. Longfield.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2021-04-12 15:29
Thanks, Mr. Bittle, for the clarification, but I would move that we accept the report.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Is it unanimous?
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Yes, and so is accepting the apology.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Okay. That allows us to move forward with the first meeting of our plastics study.
I see some witnesses who are familiar to us. They've been here recently, so they, and I imagine all the other witnesses, know the routine. We ask you to remain on mute until it is your turn to speak. That's essentially it. It's pretty much common sense, but it's worth mentioning.
Of course, you can speak in either official language and you have three options to listen—the floor feed, the English interpretation and the French interpretation.
We have with us today Dr. Chelsea Rochman from the University of Toronto. From Canada Plastics Pact, we have George Roter and Usman Valiante. From the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, we have Mr. Masterson, who is familiar to us, and Ms. Elena Mantagaris, who is also familiar to us. From Husky Injection Molding Systems, we have Mr. John Galt. Finally, from RECYC-QUÉBEC, we have Madame Sophie Langlois-Blouin.
Each group of witnesses has five minutes to present. We should be able to get three rounds in. If not, if it's a question of another five minutes, which I don't anticipate it will be, we'll just go to 5:35 or 5:40 at the latest. However, I don't think that will be a problem. I think we'll finish on time.
We'll start with Dr. Rochman for five minutes, please.
Chelsea M. Rochman
View Chelsea M. Rochman Profile
Chelsea M. Rochman
2021-04-12 15:31
Thank you so much for inviting me to present to this committee. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share my expertise and facilitate the use of scientific evidence in forming policy.
My name is Dr. Chelsea Rochman. I'm a professor in ecology at the University of Toronto. My research program is globally known for work on method development, contamination of microplastics in the environment, exposure to wildlife and humans, and ecological effects. We study plastic debris across the world, including locally in the Great Lakes, at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area, and in the Canadian Arctic.
Currently I am the scientific delegate to Canada for the UNE working group on plastic pollution. I'm also advising ECCC on the addition of plastic as a subindicator of Great Lakes health under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. I'm leading an international working group in California to advise on a monitoring method and a threshold for risk in both wildlife and humans relevant to microplastics.
Today I want to speak specifically to plastic waste and single-use plastic items, followed by commenting on the negative consequences of plastic pollution in general.
In a recent study, we estimated that 24 million to 34 million tonnes of plastic waste was emitted into aquatic ecosystems in 2020. If we continue business as usual, that number may triple by 2030. There's no time to waste. Unless growth in plastic production and use is halted, a fundamental transformation of the plastic economy is essential. We need to shift to a circular economy, where end-of-life plastic products are valued rather than turned to waste. Because of this, I support goals under the Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste and the proposal to manage plastics under CEPA. I was pleased to see Canada adopt a truly integrated approach with policies relevant to managing single-use plastics, establishing performance standards and ensuring end-of-life responsibility.
Each of these pathways is important, including the reduction in our reliance on unnecessary single-use plastics in order to bend our linear plastic economy toward a more circular one. Reducing single-use plastics that are common environmental pollutants, that are not reusable or recyclable and that have a substitution, is an important part of this transition. I applaud the decision to ban certain single-use plastics as early as this year.
I also agree with each item on the list. This is because these items are commonly found in the environment, are not essential, and do not have a practically sustainable end of life. I also suggest that we think critically about how to define “plastic” under this regulation. If compostable or biodegradable plastics are to be considered for exemption, they need to be truly compostable beyond an industrial compost facility, and/or biodegradable in a relatively short time scale in the environment, meaning less than six months. To the best of my knowledge, there are no products currently on the market that meet these criteria.
I want to spend my last minutes discussing the effects of plastic once it becomes pollution.
My research mainly focuses on the small stuff. The term “microplastic” incorporates a large diversity of plastic types, including degraded bits of larger plastic products, such as single-use items. My research demonstrates that microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment, including in our Arctic and in seafood and drinking water extracted from the Great Lakes.
My research also demonstrates that microplastics can be toxic to fish and invertebrates. There have been many studies testing the effects of microplastics on organisms. Although results are variable, there's irrefutable evidence that microplastics can impact organisms at concentrations that are already present in some places in the environment. Although we do not yet fully understand how they affect human health, we know that we are exposed, and further research is necessary.
When it comes to large plastic debris, we have no doubt there is an impact on wildlife. Studies report contamination via entanglement or ingestion in hundreds of species. This contamination can lead to laceration of tissues, death of an individual, declines in population size and changes in community assemblages. The weight of evidence for how plastics impact wildlife once it becomes debris in the environment suggests that the time to act is now.
As you know, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we need a tool box of solutions that include those that help us build a circular economy. One of these is the reduction of unnecessary single-use plastics. In Canada, we have demonstrated leadership in this space, and I thank you. We should continue by building a circular economy, reducing emissions of plastics into our environment, and cleaning up what has become pollution.
I envision diverse policies working in tandem, and these should include those currently on the table, which include expanded and harmonized EPR, or extended producer responsibility; the implementation of standards that increase the use of recycled content in new products; and the elimination of problematic single-use plastics.
I want to thank you again for this opportunity, and I'd be really happy to answer any questions today or in the future.
Thank you.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Dr. Rochman.
We'll go Mr. Roter, who will be speaking on behalf of the Canada Plastics Pact.
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:36
Thank you so much to the honourable members for inviting us as witnesses today.
I’m pleased to join you as managing director of the Canada Plastics Pact, and I’m joined by my colleague Usman Valiante.
The Canada Plastics Pact is tackling plastic waste and pollution at source. We're a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Pact network and an independent initiative of The Natural Step Canada, a national charity with 25 years of experience in fostering a strong and inclusive economy that thrives within nature’s limits.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
I apologize for interrupting you, Mr. Roter.
Mr. Chair, I am not receiving the interpretation because the sound quality is not good.
Is Mr. Roter's microphone in the right place?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Could the clerk check with the interpreters to see if there is a problem?
If I understand correctly, you can't hear anything, Ms. Pauzé. There was no interpretation. Is that correct?
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
That's right. The interpreter said that the sound quality was not good enough for him to be able to interpret what Mr. Roter was saying. I don't know if the microphone's position should be adjusted.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Possibly.
Mr. Roter, you have the mike that was sent to you by the committee, I would imagine.
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:38
Yes. I'm not sure if this is good enough so that everybody can hear me just fine.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Sometimes it helps if you raise the mike a bit, as opposed to lowering it.
Madam Clerk, is that better?
Mr. George Roter: Is the audio okay?
Angela Crandall
View Angela Crandall Profile
Angela Crandall
2021-04-12 15:38
They're saying that the sound is very muffled.
Mr. George Roter: Is this better?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, a little bit.
Angela Crandall
View Angela Crandall Profile
Angela Crandall
2021-04-12 15:39
Is it not a House of Commons headset, Mr. Roter?
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:39
No, it's not, but I tested this last week with the group, and they said it was just fine. I can switch headsets if you would like.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
That would be better. Why don't you do that?
Mr. George Roter: Sure.
The Chair: In the meantime, we'll go to Mr. Masterson. Then we'll come back to you, Mr. Roter.
Mr. Masterson, go ahead, please, for five minutes.
Bob Masterson
View Bob Masterson Profile
Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 15:40
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for this opportunity.
I'm pleased once again to be joined by my colleague, Elena Mantagaris.
As we mentioned the last time we spoke just a few short weeks ago, Canada's chemistry and plastics industry does share Parliament's and Canadians' concerns and views that plastics have no place in the natural environment. Our industry accepts its shared responsibility for addressing the issue of post-consumer plastics. We're designing products for recyclability. We're using recycled content. We're advancing industry-led producer responsibility programs from coast to coast, investing in technology infrastructure, and taking action to address marine plastic litter, especially in developing countries.
Our industries do believe that a circular economy for plastics is possible and achievable within a relatively modest time frame. Once again—and I'm sure Mr. Roter will reinforce this—our customers are demanding it.
One purpose of this study is with regard to the economic impacts of the federal government's proposed approach to listing plastic manufactured items on CEPA's schedule 1 list of toxic substances and banning certain single-use plastics. I'd reinforce that it's important to recognize that the chemistry and plastics industry is very heterogeneous, but for the purpose of trying to simplify this for you, I'll just talk about two distinct components.
First, we have the large upstream resin manufacturers. These are very large global multinationals with massive facilities in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.
Second—and these companies will be impacted very differently—we have the downstream plastics product manufacturers. They take the resins and convert them into the plastic products that we all use in our lives every day. These downstream companies are widely dispersed. There are nearly 2,000 of them across Canada. Eighty-six per cent of them are small and medium-sized enterprises, and the vast majority of those are family-owned companies. Many of those companies specialize in single products, such as plastic bags, or a small suite of products. The ban will disproportionately harm these companies and their employees and, in some cases, close off domestic markets entirely.
Moreover, Canada is a relatively small country in terms of the number of people and the size of markets. Like most Canadian industries, these companies, to remain profitable and to operate at scale, serve both domestic and export markets. One thing that's proposed or discussed in the federal government's approach is a ban on the export of plastic products, even to economies that don't have bans similar to what Canada is proposing. Those companies will be left with no choice but to either relocate or shut down entirely, because it won't be feasible to produce products if there's no export market either.
I think, however—and you've heard me say this on past occasions—that the biggest economic impact that will arise from the proposed federal actions will be the effect on future investment opportunities. Canada is a global-scale, low-carbon-producing plastics producer. We're the third-largest manufacturer in Canada. We're a top-10 global plastics resin producer. This industry is expanding globally, as I've said, at twice the global GDP. We think it sends a very negative signal to the global industry to list all plastic manufactured items as CEPA-toxic. It sends the message that Canada is ambivalent at best, if not actually in opposition, to growth and investment in this sector.
We cannot achieve a circular economy and we cannot achieve the investments necessary for a circular economy without attracting that global investment here. It will come out of the sector we already have.
Canada has a great opportunity. You've heard me say that we've seen $300 billion of investment in the United States in the last six years. Canada should have seen $30 billion of that in its own chemistry sector. We have largely become a flyover destination for chemistry sector investment, and a toxic designation and the listing of all plastic manufactured items as toxic will exacerbate that problem.
We see our largest provinces—Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia—all prioritizing economic growth, partly based on recovery through the COVID pandemic and partly on the basis of new chemistry investments. As we did with the COVID epidemic, we need the federal government and the provincial governments working hand in hand with industry and other stakeholders in a consistent and integrated manner.
Thank you.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
We'll go now back to Mr. Roter.
Mr. Roter, I think you have the right headset, but we can't hear you and I don't think you're on mute. We'll go to Mr. Galt and then we'll come back to Mr. Roter.
John Galt
View John Galt Profile
John Galt
2021-04-12 15:45
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for giving me the time to represent my viewpoints on this critically important subject.
John Galt
View John Galt Profile
John Galt
2021-04-12 15:45
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.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Your time is almost up, Mr. Galt. Perhaps you could take five minutes to wrap it up.
John Galt
View John Galt Profile
John Galt
2021-04-12 15:51
I'm just wrapping up. I'll just take a few seconds on the last couple of points.
Fundamentally, plastics have the lowest carbon footprint and recycle well relative to the alternatives.
Finally, I think in the time it's taken so far in the last year and a half to debate this, a public-private partnership could have been established and meaningful inroads could have been made in establishing Canada as a leader in the circular economy. What's unique is that Canada has the opportunity on a global scale, as we're a global company that deals with customers everywhere.
Canada actually absorbs more carbon than it produces—
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
We're going to have to stop it there, Mr. Galt. There will be ample time to provide information during the Q and A period.
Mr. Roter, how are we doing?
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:51
Maybe the third time is a charm. What do we think?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
I think you're going to get the thumbs-up on this one. I'm just looking at the clerk.
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:51
I'm just going to continue talking, and then we'll make an assessment as to whether the volume is good. I think that I'm now on the correct interpretation channel, so we can make sure that's going through.
Angela Crandall
View Angela Crandall Profile
Angela Crandall
2021-04-12 15:52
It's good.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Perfect.
Go ahead, Mr. Roter. Take it from the top, as they say.
George Roter
View George Roter Profile
George Roter
2021-04-12 15:52
I'll take it from the top. Third time's the charm.
Thank you so much again for your patience.
I'm very pleased to join you as the managing director of the Canada Plastics Pact.
The Canada Plastics Pact is tackling waste and pollution at source. We're a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's global Plastics Pact network and an independent initiative of The Natural Step Canada, a national charity with 25 years of experience in fostering a strong and inclusive economy that thrives within nature's limits.
Over 50 leading organizations are part of the Canada Plastics Pact, all taking action to achieve a circular economy for plastics. This is a growing network with expertise ranging from chemical and resin manufacturers to packaging and consumer goods producers to retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. It includes for-profit, not-for-profit and public sector organizations. This is the only network that brings together all of Canada's plastics value chain under one roof.
We recently completed a study showing that about 1.9 million tonnes of plastics packaging is produced in Canada each year. Of this, 88% ends up thrown away in landfills, burned in incinerators or lost to the environment. Just 12% is recycled.
That 88% represents waste, not just garbage. It's a wasted economic opportunity, a wasted chance at investing in innovation and industrial development and wasted greenhouse gas emissions.
If the question is how to address the make, take, waste reality of plastics today, the answer is with a circular economy—as we've heard from the other speakers—in which we keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment. This would mean eliminating the plastic packaging we don't need while innovating to ensure the plastic packaging we do need is reused or recycled. A circular economy for plastic turns waste into tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic value while stimulating innovation and benefiting the environment.
A 2019 Recycling Council of Alberta report identified that increasing recycling in that province alone could generate $700 million per year in economic value and nearly 6,000 jobs. This is also true elsewhere in Canada, where a circular economy for plastics can produce high-quality, future-fit jobs. Imagine well-paid, safe, and secure jobs in sorting, recycling and industrial facilities from Kelowna to Kitchener, coast to coast to coast, in urban, rural and remote areas.
For the petrochemical sector, this poses an opportunity to develop world-leading innovation. Take, for example, a recent partnership between B.C.-based Merlin Plastics and Calgary-based NOVA Chemicals to turn recycled polyethylene into food-grade plastic resin.
Canada has an R and D infrastructure in place, supported by leading academic institutions, that is already driving this type of innovation in established companies and start-ups. More is possible.
The environmental benefits are also clear. Keeping plastics out of landfills and incinerators benefits our communities and animal and human health. Recycling plastic reduces greenhouse gases by over two-thirds compared to making resin from fresh, virgin resources.
If the early stages of the Canada Plastics Pact have proven anything, it's that industry is highly invested in bringing about a circular economy for plastics in Canada.
The involvement of all levels of government is also key. Bans on single-use plastic items are one possible tool on the menu of options available to governments. While partners in the Canada Plastics Pact have a range of views on this topic, our signatories have committed to designing out plastic packaging that is problematic for collection and recycling supply chains.
I would, however, like to shine a light on some additional approaches that the federal government can consider.
First, there's a clear role for the federal government in coordinating an effort to collect and share plastics data. Currently, data is inconsistent and insufficient on what plastics are flowing through the system and where they're ending up. Simply, you can't manage what you can't measure.
Second, there's an opportunity for the federal government to establish an industrial policy agenda for a circular plastics economy. Specifically, it can create national definitions in performance standards for the collection and recycling of plastics; support the provinces as they set out performance-based regulations, such as extended producer responsibility; and establish national recycled content standards while using public procurement to drive demand. These supply- and demand-side policies will set the basis for technological innovation in the circularity of plastics.
Third, no one part of the plastics value chain can address the challenge of waste alone, so it's important for governments to invest in the multi-stakeholder platforms for collaboration that are crucial for driving holistic systems change.
To conclude, let me be clear that the Canada Plastics Pact members do not speak with one voice on the proposed bans. What we are agreed on is that there is a broader agenda and a set of policies that the government will need to put in place to realize the benefits of, and position Canada as a leader in, the essential transition to a circular plastics economy.
Thank you.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thanks.
First of all, I'd like to thank our analysts for putting together such an interesting panel. A lot of discussion and debate are going to be generated..
We'll start the question period with Mr. Albas for six minutes, please.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd also like to pass on my thanks to all the good work that's been going on to make sure we have these great witnesses today.
First I'd like to address Mr. Masterson. Would you say this action of declaring plastics—
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'm told—
I'm so sorry. Madame—
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, and it's entirely my fault.
You are to hear from the representative from RECYC-QUÉBEC. This is very important. I was wondering why we were ahead of schedule, but I understand now.
I apologize, Ms. Langlois-Blouin. You have the floor.
Sophie Langlois-Blouin
View Sophie Langlois-Blouin Profile
Sophie Langlois-Blouin
2021-04-12 15:58
Thank you.
As I will be presenting in French, if I may, I would like to make sure that the interpretation into English is working well.
Is it working?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
For my part, I can hear you just fine. I imagine everything is fine for the interpreters as well.
Madam Clerk tells me that this is the case.
Sophie Langlois-Blouin
View Sophie Langlois-Blouin Profile
Sophie Langlois-Blouin
2021-04-12 15:59
Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before your committee.
I am Sophie Langlois-Blouin, vice-president of RECYC-QUÉBEC. I am responsible for operations.
RECYC-QUÉBEC is a government corporation that reports to the Minister of the Environment and works every day to reduce, reuse and recycle as much material as possible by guiding both citizens, municipalities and businesses in the adoption of responsible production and consumption practices. Our vision is to make Quebec a waste-free society.
You are studying the issue of plastics and single-use products. This is an issue in which RECYC-QUÉBEC has been very active for many years. All of our interventions, whether for plastics or other materials, are essentially based on the 3RV hierarchy, which you may be familiar with. So our main actions touch on reduction at source and reuse.
Over the past year, RECYC-QUÉBEC has offered financial support to concrete projects that reduce plastics and single-use products. Ten projects were selected last February, in 10 regions of Quebec, for just under $900,000.
I would say that there is genuine enthusiasm on the part of citizens, businesses and municipalities, who want to make the transition and reduce plastic or single-use products at the source. These can be completely eliminated by raising awareness. There is a buy-in to this kind of initiative. It is very important for us to continue to support and document this. We are also working to promote reuse, which is the transition to sustainable products. It's about moving away from single-use and disposable products. We've prepared different information sheets on that.
We've also done outreach in the past to show that not only are there environmental benefits from reducing plastic or single-use products and using reusable products, but also economic benefits. It's important to talk about this. Businesses and merchants that make the transition to sustainable products can quickly see savings, especially in their acquisitions.
More and more new companies and business models are emerging. The Quebec example I want to talk about is La tasse, created by the organization La vague. It's a visually recognizable blue mug that has been adopted by many retailers and cafés in many cities. It allows consumers to pick up the mug at one location and take it back to another. It's really this kind of initiative that we want to support and roll out on a larger scale in different regions of Quebec.
When it comes to plastics and single-use products or packaging, there are two things that our work has led us to pay particular attention to.
First, reducing plastic products is good, but we must be careful not to create a rebound effect, especially when we want to reduce food packaging. We know that packaging can play a role in preserving and extending the shelf life of food. It is possible to reduce both packaging and food waste, but it must be done in an informed manner. In particular, RECYC-QUÉBEC participated in a study by the National Zero Waste Council that focused specifically on the link between packaging and food waste reduction.
Second, when looking for solutions to replace single-use plastics, we need to be careful about the impacts of those solutions. In the past, we conducted a life-cycle analysis of shopping bags. We looked at reusable bags and single-use bags, and found that the single-use plastic bag had the least environmental impact over its entire lifespan. It is often said that replacing one disposable product with another disposable product is not the best solution. You should first look at whether you can reduce their use or even switch to sustainable products.
In closing, I would like to point out that RECYC-QUÉBEC is also very active in the field of transitioning to the circular economy. This is a set of strategies to achieve our goal. Recycling is part of it, but, for us, it is one of the last strategies to look at.
In Quebec, we are working to update and modernize our recovery and recycling systems, particularly selective collection and the refundable deposit system. Last March, legislation was passed to modernize both of these systems under an extended producer responsibility approach. Deposits will also be expanded to include all types of beverage containers. So we are talking about an expanded and modernized deposit.
In summary, source reduction and reuse are our priorities.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Langlois-Blouin.
We can now move in good conscience to the question and answer period.
Mr. Albas, you have the floor for six minutes.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you again to all the witnesses.
Mr. Masterson, would you say this action of declaring plastics toxic is going in absolutely the wrong direction and increasing uncertainty for industry?
Bob Masterson
View Bob Masterson Profile
Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 16:05
Absolutely that's true, and I think you've heard that from Mr. Galt as well.
Mr. Albas, I want to be clear. Our industry is not against government action in this area. In fact, we encouraged the Government of Canada and Minister Wilkinson to look at the right tools to do this. The issue was that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is not the right tool.
We all know that the last Parliament did support a private member's bill for a national framework for zero plastic waste. We support that, and we think Parliament should introduce the right tools, but the CEPA schedule 1 list of toxic substances is not the primary tool that will effectively [Technical difficulty—Editor].
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
[Technical difficulty—Editor] tool. That's interesting, because during the Bill C-204 debate, MP Bittle opposed the bill by arguing it would increase the level of uncertainty and MP Longfield argued that the bill was bad because industry was saying we were going in the wrong direction.
Mr. Masterson, you represent industry. Why do you think they are ignoring your claims in this case?
Bob Masterson
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Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 16:06
I think I started by saying society and Parliament demand action in this area, and we agree. I'm not sure why the government is making the choices it is; it is expeditious to act quickly with the tools you have rather than to develop new ones. There are also issues around the role of the provinces versus the role of the federal government. We have not seen the federal government actively involved in post-consumer materials, except for the import and export of hazardous wastes.
It's a whole new area. It would obviously be time-consuming to develop new legislation, but, sir, that's a question better left for Minister Wilkinson, I believe.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Fair enough.
Are the chemicals that are going to be declared toxic and harmful important in the production of certain things?
Bob Masterson
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Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 16:07
I think this is a key question; that's the whole point here. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act's schedule 1 is meant to address chemical substances. We think of things like asbestos. Someone mentioned PFAS earlier. It's meant to look at those kinds of things. What is being proposed right now is to take a whole group of consumer products [Technical difficulty—Editor] There is no other precedent for saying a group of consumer products, like all plastic manufactured items, would be listed on CEPA's schedule 1.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Again that is interesting, because in opposing Bill C-204, MP Saini's reason was that the chemicals at play are important in the production of things. If the government declares all plastics are toxic, will that result in the loss of jobs?
Bob Masterson
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Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 16:08
I tried to talk about two levels of impact, one definitely, and the list is a precursor to that. The bans will definitely impact the smaller companies. The question of listing plastics as toxic, however, does send a signal about the ambivalence at best, as I said, of Canada as an investment designation for circularity.
We have a low-carbon plastics economy. We have global leaders here. We have companies that will make the investment, but they need to be welcomed and worked with. I think someone has talked about public-private partnerships. We all want to get to the same place. How do we work together to do this? Declaring plastics toxic is not a solution that engenders good co-operative relationships.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Then I would expect that MP Bittle, who said "It's a potentially dangerous piece of paper if it's going to cost jobs at the expense of not being enforceable", will join us in opposing the government's harmful toxic designation.
Mr. Masterson, will this designation and ban hurt Canadian businesses? You mentioned a flyover economy. Can you elaborate more on that?
Bob Masterson
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Bob Masterson
2021-04-12 16:09
I'll talk very briefly about the investment, but I think Ms. Mantagaris can talk more about the impacts on the business.
Again, our industry has seen $300 billion of investment in the U.S. in the last seven years. That's half of all manufacturing investment. Most of that has been in the area of plastics. The low-carbon economy demands more and more plastics. That investment is taking place. Canada is already an investment flyover destination. We've seen very little of that investment here. We should have seen more. Does this do anything to help us attract more investment? I think the answer is clearly “no”.
As for impacts on the companies themselves, the Huskys and other plastics companies, if there's time, please follow up with Ms. Mantagaris.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Ms. Mantagaris, did you want to say anything?
Elena Mantagaris
View Elena Mantagaris Profile
Elena Mantagaris
2021-04-12 16:10
Yes. Thank you.
In terms of specific examples, there's no question that many of our members have indicated that this type of approach will affect their businesses and the future of their operations. I recently met with MP Maloney with just two of our members who represent 600 jobs in the Etobicoke North area. There are dozens and dozens of plastics companies in that area. They both indicated that jobs would be at risk.
I spoke with another company out of Montreal that recycles plastic bags, the item that's being proposed to be banned. If this moves forward, they'll likely move their locations to the U.S. Why would they choose to be in a jurisdiction where their product is being declared toxic and where the investment they've made in recycling infrastructure is not valued? They'll go where it's valued.
Certainly, to build on Bob Masterson's point, I think many of our members are questioning whether future investments in this country are feasible, whether in the recycling system or just in the plastics production sector in general.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
We'll go to Ms. Saks now. Ms. Saks, you have six minutes.
View Ya'ara Saks Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ya'ara Saks Profile
2021-04-12 16:11
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I hope my sound is okay now. Can I perhaps get a thumbs-up from the clerk?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
You got the thumbs-up.
View Ya'ara Saks Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ya'ara Saks Profile
2021-04-12 16:11
Wonderful.
Thank you to all the witnesses who are here today. This is a really wonderful start to our plastics study.
Professor Rochman, I'd like to start with you, if I may, to highlight the research that you mentioned you've been conducting. Since my colleague Mr. Albas talked about toxicity, I'd like to open by getting a clarification.
When we're talking about toxicity, we're talking about the impacts on biodiversity and on health, both of those aspects. In exploring that in relation to CEPA, we're really looking at the agility to be able to protect our biodiversity. With regard to the environmental risks of plastic pollution on the ecosystem, particularly microplastics, can you highlight for me and for this committee a little bit more about the organisms, species and wildlife that are impacted by the microplastics and the toxicity potentially related to it?
Chelsea M. Rochman
View Chelsea M. Rochman Profile
Chelsea M. Rochman
2021-04-12 16:12
Sure, I would be happy to. Thank you for the question. I'll start with wildlife, and then I'll answer the question about human health.
When it comes to wildlife, there's no doubt that organisms are exposed. This includes animals at every level of the food web. In Lake Ontario, for example, where I live, we sometimes find fish with more than 100 pieces of microplastics in their gut contents. They're exposed, and in certain locations, they're exposed to a high concentration.
A number of laboratory studies have looked at the effects on organisms. This includes zooplankton, organisms at that lower level of the food chain, and from molluscs like mussels and clams and oysters all the way up to fish. If people synthesize that work and put it together, they can look at the risk to the species. For example, if I put this information together, what is the concentration that harms 5% of the species within the environment? That concentration is around 100 to 120 particles per litre. That concentration is found in some parts of our Great Lakes already.
When it comes to microplastics, we still have a lot to learn in terms of the different types of plastics out there, but we know that the concentrations we find in nature in high concentrations can be toxic to freshwater and marine species.
When it comes to human health, we know that there are microplastics in our drinking water. We know that there are microplastics in the seafood we eat as a result of microplastics leaving the gut and going into parts of the organism that we eat. We don't yet know how it impacts human health. That's still a bit of a black box.
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