The Government of Canada is taking action to reduce plastic pollution and move toward a circular economy addressing the entire lifecycle of plastics, keeping it in the economy and out of the environment.
On December 30, 2023, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change launched a consultation on the creation of the Federal Plastics Registry, which will be used as a tool to monitor and track plastic from the time it is produced to its end of life. This is another step to deliver on Canada’s comprehensive plan to reduce plastic pollution and waste.
“Canadians are demanding action to tackle the plastic waste and pollution crisis, and the federal government will continue to act. The Federal Plastics Registry is an important tool that will help track and manage plastics across the economy,” said Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “It will support provinces and territories in making producers responsible for their plastic waste at end of life and help move Canada toward a circular economy for plastics.”
The Registry would require producers to report annually on the quantity and types of plastic they place on the Canadian market, how that plastic moves through the economy, and how it is managed at end of life. The Registry would collect information to help monitor plastic in the economy over time. The Government would use this information to measure progress toward zero plastic waste and inform actions to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
The Registry would:
- complement existing reporting requirements such as those under provincial and territorial extended producer responsibility programs,
- harmonize plastics data across the country, and
- make this information openly accessible to all Canadians and businesses through a new and modern reporting platform.
This consultation is open to Canadians and all interested parties until February 13, 2024.
In the meantime, the federal government is working with its partners to advance its comprehensive zero plastic waste agenda at home and abroad. This includes continued work with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Action Plan. The Registry would support the Action Plan commitment to develop and maintain national plastics economy data.
Controversy over classifying plastics as “toxic” in the courts
On April 23, 2021, an order-in-council directed that “plastic manufactured items” be added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). However, on November 16, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the federal order-in-council classifying plastics as “toxic” is not only unreasonable but unconstitutional. The federal government is currently appealing this decision.
Meanwhile, not all jurisdictions are on board. The Government of Alberta is participating in the appeal and is prepared to argue that the federal government’s decision to label plastic as a “toxic substance” is an unconstitutional intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.
In addition to intervening in the appeal, Alberta will monitor any further legal action taken to remove plastic manufactured items from the current Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Several Calgary-based companies producing compostable plastic bags are now caught in the ban and will be barred from supplying Calgarians with low-emissions alternatives to traditional plastic shopping bags.
“Instead of listening to the courts and to Canadians, the federal government has chosen overreach once again,” said Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. “We will continue standing up for our constitutional jurisdiction while focusing on more effective ways to reduce plastic waste and keep it out of landfills.”
A statement from the Alberta government states that the province is “committed to reducing plastic waste through initiatives like extended producer responsibility, which encourages businesses to find new ways to recycle materials and reduce waste. The province also advocates for strategies that create economies of scale, promote recycled content and develop local markets for transformed plastic waste.”
In 2019, Canadians threw away 4.4 million tonnes of plastic waste, only nine per cent of which was recycled.
To participate in the public federal consultation, visit: