10 June 2021
declared all plastic products as potentially toxic. The country is taking this
revolutionary step so that it can further reduce the plastic in the
environment. In doing so, Canada will follow a well-trodden path. A few years
ago, plastic particles in personal care products was declared toxic by law
which paved the way for a ban.
The new law
is viewed as a legal basis for banning certain items from single use plastic
(SUP). Then, just like in Europe, items such as plastic straws and stirrers may
no longer be used.
The current list of toxic substances under Canadian environmental law – the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) – will be extended to contain ‘plastic items’. This creates the space for plastic to potentially be declared toxic. This modification is the legal basis to evaluate each individual plastic product for risks to the environment and to human health. This will be the case if these products are found or may be found in worrying quantities in the environment.
Canadian Government argues that voluntary measures, as championed by industry,
are not enough to effectively counter increasing plastic pollution. Measures can
be taken for individual plastic products. In other words, the law needs to be
enforceable on a case by case basis.
PRINCIPLE OF PREVENTION TRIUMPHS
The Canadian Government has resisted the strong lobby of the plastics industry that wanted to block the modification of the CEPA. After all, qualifying plastic as toxic is not up for discussion by the industry. Their objections are summarised in a statement by the American sector organisation, the American Chemistry Council.
the new law does not state that plastic is toxic by definition. It is about
having the option of carrying out a risk analysis for each plastic product from
now on. Depending on the outcomes of the analysis, prevention measures can be
put in place.
CONSIDERING BANNING CERTAIN ITEMS
Canadian Government’s goal is that there is no more plastic in the environment
by 2030. To this end, the country is considering a ban on some plastic items
like straws, stirrers, cutlery, six-pack rings, thin supermarket bags, Styrofoam
items and take-away food packaging. The modified CEPA now paves the way for a
ban on the use and sale of these items.
Greenpeace Canada praised the Canadian Government for this step and for not giving in to the pressure exerted by the lobbying. The environmental organisation calls on the Government to not only ban SUP items, but to actively bring about a systems change. Supermarkets may no longer be filled with products that are individually packed in plastic.
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