The Liberal government’s single-use plastic ban, explained


This week the Liberal government announced it would ban certain single-use plastic items in a bid to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, but only a limited number of products are banned and some of the bans will only go into effect. force only in 2025.

The six categories of banned single-use plastics represent approximately 3% of the plastic waste generated annually in Canada, and while the list is short, not everything is outright banned.

For example, some plastic straws are prohibited but there are exceptions that only restrict others.

CBC News looked at the regulations to see what is banned and when, how the policy announced this week will impact the campaign to reduce plastics globally, and what has been left off the banned list.

We also submitted a list of questions to Environment Canada, some of which were submitted by readers to the Ask CBC team. Some of Environment Canada’s responses to these questions can be found below.

Which products are prohibited by these new regulations?

Six categories of single-use plastic products are banned, including:

  • Checkout bags.
  • Cutlery.
  • Takeaway meals with hard-to-recycle plastics.
  • Aluminum plastic ring holder.
  • Mix the sticks.
  • Straws.

Why aren’t disposable plastic drink lids on the list?

Although plastic cup lids are one of the top items found during shoreline cleanups, the federal government said it chose the six product categories for a number of reasons: they end up in the environment during cleanups, they pose a threat to wildlife, they are difficult to recycle, and can be replaced with alternatives.

“With respect to plastic lids used for disposable coffee cups specifically, limited alternatives to this item have been identified as available at this time,” the government said in a statement.

The federal government said it continues to monitor the data and evidence and will decide whether other single-use plastic products can and should be banned in the future.

Will it make a lot of noise in plastic waste in Canada?

Not a big one.

According to environmental groups like Greenpeace Canada, the six product categories only account for about 5% of the total amount of plastic waste created in Canada in a year, based on 2019 data.

The federal government’s estimate is even lower. In the regulation details published on Wednesday, it estimated about 3% of plastic waste created from 2019 data, or about 150,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

When do the bans come into effect?

New rules will prohibit the manufacture and importation of most items on the list for the purpose of selling them in Canada by December 20, 2022. After that date, the goods may still be sold domestically for another year .

Plastic ring holders, such as those used to hold a six-pack of cans together, get an additional six-month grace. They can continue to be imported and manufactured for sale in Canada until June 20, 2023 and their sale is not prohibited until June 20, 2024.

If the federal government wants to ban plastics, why is it giving such a long deadline for an export ban?

CBC News posed this question to the federal government and was told that after consultations with industry, it was decided that a 42-month phase-out period would meet Canada’s international commitments while minimizing harm. for industry.

“A phase-out allows Canadian businesses to minimize disruption to their operations, while exiting the prohibited items market in accordance with global market and regulatory trends,” the government said in a statement.

Does this mean that after December 20, 2025, no prohibited products will be shipped via Canada?

Not exactly. New rules will continue to allow banned plastic products made in another country to be shipped through Canada to a third country without restriction.

CBC News asked the federal government why this was the case if the goal was to eliminate plastics from the environment and was told that Canada’s participation in article 11.8 on trade facilitation of the World Trade Organization prohibits Canada from applying technical regulations to goods in transit.

A customer places her goods in her car outside a supermarket. Canadians will need to find alternatives to single-use plastic grocery bags by the end of next year. (Mark Baker/The Canadian Press)

I thought plastic straws were banned, but no?

While most single-use plastic straws are banned, flexible or bendable straws are not, although they are restricted.

Retail stores can sell flexible straws in a pack of 20 more, but the pack cannot be displayed where a customer can see it without the help of a store employee.

Flexible straws may also continue to be sold between companies, and for a limited time may also be sold packaged with a beverage container, provided the packaging was done by the company that manufactured the drink, as they are when sold with juice. boxes.

Juice box straws can only be sold until June 20, 2024, before they also fall under a ban.

The decision not to ban flexible straws was taken because they remain useful and necessary for people with motor disabilities or for people cared for in nursing homes.

Will Canadian companies still be able to manufacture these items for export?

In order to “allow the industry to adapt to the changes”, the federal government has said it will allow the industry to manufacture plastics until December 20, 2025. Exporters must keep detailed records of who buys their products to comply with the rules.

Checkout bags are often used more than once by consumers who reuse them. Why are they banned, but bin bags that are only used once are not?

CBC News posed this question to the feds and was told that “reusing an item for an additional single use does not make the item reusable by definition.”

According to the federal government’s definition: “A reusable article is designed and intended to be used several times, for the same purpose, without losing its original functionality. Using single-use plastic checkout bags a second time as a garbage bag or lunch bag does not mean it is reusable.”

WATCH | Ottawa will ban many single-use plastics by the end of 2023:

Ottawa is taking action to ban many single-use plastics by the end of 2023

The federal government is set to ban many single-use plastics over the next 18 months, including plastic bags, take-out containers and single-use plastic straws. Companies will be banned from manufacturing or importing them by the end of this year, and selling them by the end of 2023.

The federal government said any benefit gained from consumers reusing checkout bags is outweighed by the environmental harm caused by the product itself, noting that “16,971 units were collected from Canadian shores in 2021 in the part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup”.

By contrast, the government said it was not aware of any data showing the same problem with garbage bags. The government has said the lack of an alternative to plastic bin bags is also a factor.

Will single-use poop bags also be banned?

The federal government has said it does not ban single-use pet waste bags because the regulations were designed to prohibit “bags designed to carry goods purchased from a business.”