Canadian Government to Designate Plastics as Toxins
The Canadian federal government reportedly plans to designate plastics as toxic substances, giving the government the power to regulate and limit certain products in Canada.
According to the Globe and Mail, the government will list plastics as toxins under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, rather than the planned ban of single-use plastics by 2021. By adding language to the CEPA, the government can act faster rather than try to gain support of parliament to enact new legislature related to single-use plastics.
The decision has of course met some pushback from plastics industry people, like Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, who told the Globe and Mail that he “is disappointed the government is poised to go that route.”
“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 rule making, but it will be used as a reason by some campaigners to encourage people to stop using plastics.”
He’s right, in that the designation is a loophole of sorts to get things moving quicker than enacting new legislation basically from the ground up. But it’s not for the fun of it.
After the U.K. experimented with single-use plastic bans (especially banning microbeads), it saw enormous, measurable change in its ecosystem, especially in oceans. Also, based on the language of this addition to the CEPA, it seems like somewhat of a common sense law.
As the Globe And Mail explains:
Toxic substances are defined under CEPA as those that cause, or may cause, immediate or long-term harm to the environment, biological diversity or human health. Substances already on the list include: greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane; mercury; asbestos; lead; formaldehyde; and bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used in some plastics. The Liberals added microbeads – the tiny plastic particles found in some facial and body exfoliants – to the list in 2016.
Still, there are detractors like Dale Nally, associate minister of natural gas for the province of Alberta, who said that this is a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“Single-use plastic is not the problem,” he said. “Waste is the problem.”
Nally reportedly said in an interview that future technological innovations would enable chemical companies to use plastic waste in its next manufacturing cycle.
The problem there is that it’s still a future scenario, rather than the present matter that plastic waste creates.
Canada used this same Schedule 1 tactic for banning microbeads just like the U.K., and for a problem as urgent as climate change, it’s probably the best course of action to do it now.
“We need to move away from our reliance on fossil fuels, regardless of what format they’re in,” Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s plastics campaign, told the Globe and Mail. “We’re in a climate crisis. We’re in a plastic pollution crisis. We’re in an ocean crisis. We’re in a biodiversity crisis.”