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Environment ministers want a path to zero plastic waste

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 11/30/2018 1:33:00 PM

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has endorsed a national strategy to eliminate all plastic waste. It’s a strategy without a deadline, or even a list of specific actions and milestones, but that shouldn’t mean that the strategy can be taken lightly. In the past, the CCME has shown itself to be adept at delivering on initiatives that have ranged from packaging reduction to air quality.

The CCME is not calling for the elimination of plastic, but it is calling on the plastics industry to be far more cognizant of the end-of-life challenges that its products present. It is also calling on municipalities, the waste management industry and others to improve plastic waste collection, reuse and recycling.

The “Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste”, released on November 23, 2018, places plastics within the concept of a circular economy. This means:

  • ensuring all plastic products and packaging are designed for greater durability, reuse, and recycling throughout the value chain
  • implementing extended producer responsibility for companies that make products containing plastics or use plastic packaging
  • expanding collection systems to keep all plastic products in the economy and out of the environment
  • significantly increasing the responsible use and recycling of single-use products
  • improving our understanding of the issue and solutions through research and innovation
  • taking action to capture and remove the plastic litter found on shorelines and in nearshore waters. 

The benefits could be substantial. The CCME says that by 2030, circular economy strategies could deliver more than US$4 trillion in global economic benefits, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and primary resource consumption by 30% to 40%.

The strategy has won early endorsement from the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), which in June 2018 joined with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association to embrace an aspirational goal of 100% reuse, recycling or recovery of plastic packaging by 2040, and an interim goal of 100% of plastic packaging being recyclable or recoverable by 2030.

“Industry has a role to play in designing materials and applications for durability, reuse and recyclability, but addressing the issue of plastic waste will require actions from society as a whole and from all of us as individuals. We are pleased to see that the Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste takes a holistic approach to the issue of tackling plastic waste,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of CIAC in a release.

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