The Canadian federal government intends to designate plastics as toxic substances, a move industry stakeholders say is unduly aggressive and detrimental to the sector’s brand. Listing plastics as toxic under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) will provide the government with the authority to regulate and limit certain products. The Liberals campaigned during the fall election on a promise to ban some single-use plastics as early as 2021, as part of a national strategy to reduce waste and pollution. In a minority parliament, it is considered more expedient for the government to use the existing act than to curry multiparty support for new legislation regulating plastics.
In an e-mail, Environment and Climate Change Canada signalled that the government will, indeed, designate plastics as toxic. “In order to take concrete regulatory action to reduce plastic waste and pollution under CEPA, substances must first be added to Schedule 1,” the department said in an e-mail.
Bob Masterson, the president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said he is disappointed the government is poised to go that route. Over the past several months, the association, whose members include petrochemical companies that produce plastics, has been urging federal officials to instead amend CEPA’s pollution-prevention provisions or introduce standalone legislation.
“We’re uncomfortable with the notion that products that are used every day to keep food safe and sanitary, are going to be declared toxic,” he said. “We understand that it’s just a designation for rulemaking, but it will be used as a reason by some campaigners to encourage people to stop using plastics.”