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Plastic Now Considered Toxic In Canada, Opening Door For Significant Reforms

by Rudy Sanchez on 05/19/2021 | 2 Minute Read

Words can be a tricky thing, with nuanced differences depending on context. Plastic, for example, can be described scientifically and colloquially as “toxic,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legally considered as such. 

Unless, of course, one is in Canada, where the government has recently classified plastic as legally toxic. The change in classification is part of Canada’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), making it easier for the government to enact a series of proposals that address the growing plastic pollution crisis.

One new approach now made possible with the change includes bans on certain types of single-use plastics, such as plastic shopping bags, straws, cutlery, cigarette filters, and food wrappers. The proposal lays out management criteria for prohibiting these single-use plastic items based on how environmentally and value-recovery problematic they are.

The Canadian government will also be able to set minimum recycled content requirements and allows for an expansion of extended producer responsibility, making manufacturers more responsible for the collection and recycling of plastic packaging.

The plastic industry in Canada and the US fought hard against the shift in the material’s classification and the new change in environmental laws that signifies a drastic departure from the emphasis on recycling, which places most of the cost and burden on consumers and local governments.

The change in CEPA might signify an end to the recycling long-con (in the Great White North, at least), and environmentalists are praising the development. Ashley Wallis, of Oceana Canada, an ocean conservation organization, called it a “critical step,” and went on to describe plastic’s toxic classification as “the key that unlocks so many possibilities to help us actually address the plastic pollution crisis,” to the National Observer.