Canada has adopted a vision of zero plastic waste where plastics stay in the economy and out of landfills and the environment. Supporting frameworks include:
- a)Ocean Plastics Charter(includes targets)
- b)G7 Innovation Challenge to Address Plastic Marine Litter
- c)Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Action Plan
- d)Prime Minister of Canada’s announcement on federal actions to reduce plastic waste and pollution
- e)Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CaPSA)
- f)Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations
Canada also implements its obligations under several legally binding international agreements that contribute to preventing waste and litter, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the London Convention and Protocol to prevent marine pollution by dumping at sea. We also adopted other international frameworks for action such as: the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter, the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter and Implementation Framework, International Maritime Organization Action Plan to Address Marine Litter from Ships, and the plastics-related United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions.
Highlights of international measures
Canada spearheaded the Ocean Plastics Charter in June 2018 at G7 Leaders Summit in Charlevoix. The Charter takes a comprehensive lifecycle approach to prevent marine plastic pollution and lays the groundwork to ensure that plastics are designed for reuse and recycling, in order to protect the environment and keep a valuable resource in the economy.
The Charter includes ambitious actions and quantitative and time bound targets in five areas to improve plastics through a lifecycle management approach including:
- Sustainable design, production and after-use markets;
- Collection, management and other systems and infrastructure;
- Sustainable lifestyles and education;
- Research, innovation and new technologies; and
- Coastal and shoreline action.
Specific targets include:
- Working with industry towards 100% reusable, recyclable, or where viable alternatives do not exist, recoverable plastics by 2030.
- Working with industry towards increasing recycled content by at least 50% in plastic products where applicable by 2030.
- Working with industry and other levels of government to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of all plastics by 2040.
- Working with industry towards reducing the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic and personal care consumer products, to the extent possible by 2020, and addressing other sources of microplastics.
To support the objectives of the Charter, Canada announced $100M funding commitments of:
- $65 million through the World Bank PROBLUE fund to address plastic waste in developing countries;
- $20 million to spark innovation to beat plastic pollution in developing countries through the G7 Innovation Challenge to Address Marine Litter;
- $9 million to an incubator network to prevent plastic waste from entering the world’s oceans; and,
- $6 million for innovative private-public partnerships through the World Economic Forum Global Plastics Action Partnership.
The Government of Canada also has over 10 federal acts, regulations and agreements that contribute to the prevention of marine plastic litter, including microplastics. In particular, the Canada Shipping Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) prohibit the discharge or disposal of litter in Canadian waters. The Fisheries Act prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into domestic waters frequented by fish and prohibits serious harm to fish and fish habitat. In addition, the Species at Risk Act contains a provision for the protection of Critical Habitat for listed species, including the marine environment for aquatic species at risk. Notably, the Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations prohibit plastic microbead-containing toiletries, such as bath and body products, skin cleansers and toothpaste. In November 2016, Canada amended the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations to define as “hazardous” any waste, including household waste that is considered hazardous or controlled by an importing country that is a Party to the Basel Convention. A Canadian exporter must seek a permit before exporting hazardous waste to another country.
Canadian Environment Ministers approved in principle a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and the Phase 1 Action Plan. The Strategy outlines ten result areas on: product design, single-use plastics, collection systems, markets, recycling capacity, consumer, business and institutional awareness, aquatic activities, research and monitoring, capture and clean-up, and global action.
To contribute to the Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, the Government of Canada is taking major steps to reduce plastic pollution and drive ambitious action from governments and businesses across the country. We are:
- working with provinces and territories to develop consistent extended producer responsibility programs;
- investing in innovative Canadian technologies and global solutions to address plastic pollution, including providing over $10 million to SMEs, through 7 domestic innovation challenges, to develop solutions to reduce plastic waste;
- reducing plastic waste from federal operations, by diverting 75% of plastic waste by 2030, eliminating unnecessary use of single-use plastics in operations, meetings and events and purchasing more sustainable products;
- supporting community-led action and citizen-science activities;
- working with industry to prevent and retrieve abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear; and
- accelerating research along the lifecycle of plastics and its impacts on humans, wildlife, and the environment.
We will also ban single-use plastics that cause harm, where warranted and based on scientific evidence, and to take other actions to reduce plastic waste. As part of this process, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada are currently working on a science assessment of plastic pollution, which will be made available to the public for comment. The development of any regulatory measures, including which products will fall under the definition of single-use, will be informed by science and socio-economic considerations. We will engage and consult with stakeholders throughout the development, management, and review of potential regulations or other measures.
In addition, a range of policies, programs and regulatory initiatives at all levels of government drive improvements in the production, use and disposal of materials. Provincial, territorial and municipal governments have implemented regulatory (e.g. bans, levies, extended producer responsibility programs, litter by-laws) and non-regulatory measures (e.g. educational campaigns, recycling and deposit programs) that target some plastic products and other wastes. All provinces and territories have regulated extended producer responsibility programs in place, excluding Nunavut. For instance, there are over 160 regulated and voluntary stewardship programs in Canada covering more than 20 product categories including packaging and beverage containers. Municipalities also have local waste programming and anti-litter bylaws in place. These efforts play an important role in collecting plastics from households and other sources that help to reduce marine debris.
These measures will be grounded in scientific evidence and will align, where appropriate, with similar actions being taken in the European Union and other countries. They will also support the implementation of the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Phase 1 Action Plan.
Through the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastics Action Partnership (GPAP), Canada, as a founding member, has contributed to the development and launch of a National Action Plan Partnerships (NPAP) for Indonesia. As the GPAP’s first national partnership, Indonesia provides key learnings and expertise that will be invaluable in scaling up efforts and influencing other markets across the ASEAN region and globally. With 265 million people and as ASEAN’s largest economy, Indonesia is a key player both regionally and globally. Plastic pollution has become a major challenge facing the country’s people, environment and economy. The successful launch of the NPAP has quickly led to strong and ongoing collaboration with the Government of Indonesia and diverse stakeholders in their efforts to channel concerted solutions and advance the shift towards a circular plastics economy in the country.
Furthermore, in support of global momentum on plastics, Canada is expanding the implementation of the Ocean Plastics Charter by seeking additional endorsements, which is formalized through an expression of interest to Canadian officials. Partners are then invited to implement the objectives and commitments of the Charter within their respective jurisdictions and area of influence, and are encouraged to report on domestic progress in implementing the Charter through their own reporting processes and mechanisms. To date, there are 22 governments (including Canada, Peru, Fiji, Monaco, Costa Rica, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, the Marshall Islands, Netherlands, Senegal, Nauru, Palau, Cabo Verde, Myanmar, and Samoa) and 64 businesses and organizations (including PepsiCo, Walmart, Unilever, Ikea, Nestlé, Volvo, Ocean Wise, PyroCore ltd, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature) that have endorsed the Charter.
Canada contributed to the advancement of policies and scientific knowledge in several international fora, such as the G7, G20, the Arctic Council, and various bodies under the United Nations. For instance, Canada pledged to take action on marine litter via the United Nations Clean Seas Campaign in 2017; and, is a member of the United Nations Global Partnership on Marine Litter. In 2018, Canada contributed to the updated guidance on fishing gear through the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and joined the Global Ghost Gear initiative to tackle lost fishing gear. Canada contributed to the study on marine litter and microplastic in the Arctic under the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group and is participating in the development of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic. The Government of Canada is also contributing to work under the London Convention/Protocol to improve analysis of plastic particles in dredged materials and sewage sludge by developing scientific methods to detect plastics in dredged materials from ocean disposal sites. In addition since 2017, Canada has collaborated with the United States and Mexico via the Commission for Environmental Cooperation engaging local decision makers and the community to identify marine litter challenges, implement small-scale solutions, and build local capacity and awareness through citizen science, education and outreach.
In November 2018, Canadian Environment Ministers agreed to work collectively toward a common goal of zero plastic waste. To this end, they approved in principle a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, which outlines a vision to keep all plastics in the economy and out of landfills and the environment. The strategy aligns with the Ocean Plastics Charter—a key outcome of Canada’s G7 Presidency—and was developed with input from industry, non-governmental organizations and Canadians. It outlines areas where changes are needed across the plastic lifecycle, from design to collection, clean-up and value recovery, and underscores the economic and business opportunities resulting from long-lasting and durable plastics.
Ministers also endorsed a broader aspirational Canada-wide waste reduction goal (for all waste, including plastics). In 2014, every Canadian threw away on average 706 kg of waste. The new goal will reduce this number by 30 per cent per person by 2030, with a 50 per cent reduction by 2040.
In June 2019, Environment Ministers released the first of two phases of the Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste. The Phase 1 Action Plan will focus government efforts across a broad range of activities. They include achieving consistent extended producer responsibility programs (which place responsibility on companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging to manage the collection and recycling of these products at their end-of-life); a roadmap to address single-use and disposable plastics; support for recycling infrastructure and innovation in plastics manufacturing; and, tools for green procurement practices. Phase 2, coming in 2020, will identify actions to: improve consumer awareness; reduce waste and pollution from aquatic activities; advance science; capture and clean-up debris in the environment; and contribute to global action.
In June 2017, the Government of Canada published the Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations, listing microbeads Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The regulations prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of toiletries used to exfoliate or cleanse that contain plastic microbeads, including non-prescription drugs and natural health products started on January 1, 2018 with a complete ban as of July 2019. The regulations help protect the environment by reducing the quantity of plastic microbeads entering Canadian aquatic ecosystems.
Canada also committed over $10 million domestically towards challenges to address plastic waste in the areas of food packaging, separation of mixed plastic, construction waste, glass fiber recycling, fishing and aquaculture gear, and bioplastics.
Canada supports and conducts scientific research that informs evidence-based decision making, spurs innovation and helps to track progress. In 2018, the Government of Canada hosted the Best Brains Exchange on the Ecological and Human Health Fate and Effects of Microplastic Pollution and the Canadian Science Symposium on Plastics with subject matter experts that informed the development of Canada’s Plastic Science Agenda (CaPSA). In June 2018, CaPSA was published providing a framework that spans the lifecycle of plastics to inform future science and research investments for:
- detecting plastics in the environment
- understanding and mitigating potential impacts on wildlife, human health and the environment
- advancing sustainable plastic production, recycling and recovery
- providing the evidence needed to support decision making as we move toward a zero plastic waste future.
Federal researchers are assessing and publishing their findings on the sources, distribution, fate and impacts of marine litter and microplastics in the environment and in biota and particularly on the interactions of plastic pollution with fauna such as fish and seabirds. Canada has committed over $2 million CAD in research to increase our knowledge about the impacts of microplastics on our aquatic ecosystems and has provided support to academia and NGOs to develop microfiber sampling, identification and quantification as well as to improve our understanding of microplastics in specific geographic areas including the Great Lakes and Atlantic regions and the Saint John River watershed.
Additionally, Canada raises awareness of plastic waste and its pollution through public and industry engagement and supports communities and organizations in education raising and on-the-ground projects. For instance in August 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced $8.3 million in funding to help rid Canada’s water of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. Environment and Climate Change Canada has also provided organizations with over $3M since last year to support educational and awareness raising projects, citizen science, community demonstrations and clean-ups to reduce plastic waste and marine litter. For example, Canada has supported two national outreach campaigns (10,000 Changes and Be Plastic Wise), collaborated with NGOs and launched an Oceans Plastics Education Kit, and funds the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up program that mobilizes Canadians to remove debris from our extensive coastlines and collect citizen science data.
Note: Relevant indicators, data or other numerical information can be included at the discretion of each country, for example: (1) the amount of waste generated, reused, collected, recycled, and properly disposed of; (2) the amount of marine litter cleaned up; (3) the scale of use of innovative technologies and materials including R&D investment; (4) the scale and/or effect of assistance for countries that need technical capacity development including the increased amount of waste properly disposed of. (encouraged to indicate the proportion/elements of plastics and/or microplastics, if available)
- Ocean Plastics Charter: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/international-commitments/ocean-plastics-charter.html
- Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Action Plan: https://www.ccme.ca/en/resources/waste/waste/plastic-waste.html
- Prime Minister’s announcement on new federal actions: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2019/06/10/canada-ban-harmful-single-use-plastics-and-hold-companies-responsible
- Reducing plastic waste in federal operations:
- Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/other-chemical-substances-interest/microbeads.html
- Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/science-technology/canada-science-plastic-agenda.html
- Economic study of the Canadian plastic industry, markets and waste: summary report http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.871296/publication.html