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CANADA'S PLASTIC PLAN | Environmental Defence

Staggering: 90 percent of plastic is not recycled in Canada

Saphia Khambalia

Monday, November 19, 2018, 12:32 PM - The face of Canada's battle against plastic pollution could change in a matter of days. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), has plans to meet in Ottawa on Friday, November 23. The meeting has not been talked about much in the media and it is not well publicized, however, if all goes as signals suggest, this meeting could be a game-changer in moving our country forward in the global plastics fight.

"Something’s got to give – Canada needs to step up. We have been pushing the feds to come up with a strong national plan to deal with the 89 per cent of plastic not being recycled in Canada each year,” says Keith Brooks, program director at the Canadian group, Environmental Defence. His group closely follows the inside world of Canadian Environmental policy. They believe that this upcoming, under-the-radar meeting could actually be the forum that the long-awaited national strategy for tackling plastic pollution, or at least a draft version of it, is released.

According to Environment Defence, CCME is a committee made up of the federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers.

(Image courtesy: Getty)

"They meet annually to discuss their environment priorities. This year one of those priorities is plastic pollution,” Brooks said in an exclusive interview with The Weather Network, adding that while an announcement this week may not be the final version of the plastics plan, it will most likely give an idea of how committed the current government is to fight against plastic pollution.

"Right now there is no national recycling target. There are no rules requiring or even encouraging plastic producers to use recycled plastic. There are not even bans on hard-to-recycle or toxic plastics like styroforam. Producers are allowed to put any kind of packaging onto the market, and municipalities have to figure out how to deal with it."


Officials from Environmental Defence tell us:

  • Less than 11 per cent of all plastics are recycled in Canada
  • 90 per cent of plastics end up incinerated, or in our landfills, lakes, parks and oceans
  • Once in the environment, plastic waste contaminates ecosystems, kill wildlife, and leach toxic chemicals

There has been tough talk and rhetoric floated around the environment and governance arenas as of late. In addition, Brooks hopes for concrete results this time around. He will be on the look out for the following out of the upcoming CCME meeting.

  • Bans: Like a ban on plastics that are tough to recycle or toxic, such as styrofoam. Brooks describes Styrofoam as "unnecessary, very difficult to recycle, and we throw out enough of it each year to fill 208 Olympic-sized swimming pools"
  • Targets: A possible a national recycling target of at least 85 per cent by 2025, and 100 per cent captured, so that no more plastic is entering the environment
  • Legislation: Putting the onus on producers to be financially and operationally responsible for cleaning up their own plastic products. Similar to how beer bottles are returned to the beer store for recycling


"We hope that they are. We think they are ambitious, but achievable. We need a strategy that has some teeth. There needs to be some legislation that underpins this. If there’s no legislation and no teeth than no one will carry it out," Brooks says.

Momentum has been building for months. In a meeting of the G7 ministers in Halifax this past September, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna pledged to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics within the federal government. That means abolishing items such as plastic straws, cutlery, cups and the like from its day-to-day operations. McKenna said federal government operations would re-use and recycle at least 75 per cent of all of its plastic garbage by 2030. She went on to hint at the need for a zero-waste national strategy and announced a $12 million fund for plastic innovation.

The topic of single-use plastic products is sure to be a hot topic of discussion as the various environment ministers gather in Ottawa this week. Vancouver, St. John's and Montreal, have already made moves to eliminate the distribution of plastic shopping bags in their areas. Environmental Defence wants to go one step further and think bigger; "Now is the time to get Canada to zero plastic waste by 2025."

(Image courtesy: Getty)


According to Brooks, "We’ve shown some leadership internationally as we championed the Global Oceans Plastics Charter, which had a lot of good measures in it. However, we are still lacking a national strategy. The European Union has a comprehensive plan to address plastics and it’s a decent model for us to follow."

The Weather Network will keep an close eye on whatever comes out of the upcoming 2018 meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). You can stay tuned for a comprehensive analysis following any outcome.

You can also get more information on the Environment Defence website. A link to the petition they have created that asks the government for real action on plastics can be found here.


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