Feds, prov­inces part­ner­ing to re­duce plas­tic waste

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Mia RABSON, Michael TUTTON

HAL­I­FAX — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries say they have pieced to­gether an ac­tion plan to grad­u­ally har­mo­nize the re­cy­cling and re­duc­tion of plas­tic waste, with de­tails yet to emerge.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna said to­day at a Hal­i­fax meet­ing of en­vi­ron­ment ministers the gov­ern­ments agree there should be con­sis­tent stan­dards and tar­gets for com­pa­nies that pro­duce plas­tic waste or use it to pack­age their prod­ucts.

She told re­porters dur­ing a con­fer­ence call the plan could en­sure that com­pa­nies are held re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing and col­lect­ing their waste and also pay­ing the costs in­volved.

The min­is­ter said ten­sions con­tin­ued around the ta­ble be­tween her and ministers from con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments over the is­sue of a fed­eral car­bon tax. How­ever, she says that didn’t stop them from mov­ing for­ward on the plas­tics file.

McKenna said it would “take time” to ne­go­ti­ate dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of the fed­eral-provin­cial plan, and de­tails will be­gin to be worked out in the months to come.

“For the first time, we now have this na­tional zero plas­tic ac­tion plan to elim­i­nate plas­tic waste. This is the first phase of it,” she said.

There were con­cerns be­fore the meet­ing that the high level of an­tag­o­nism be­tween McKenna and con­ser­va­tive pre­miers over the fed­eral car­bon tax might harm talks on other en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Five of the prov­inces at the ta­ble are chal­leng­ing or plan to chal­lenge Ot­tawa in court over its “back­stop” car­bon tax, and a de­ci­sion in On­tario’s case is com­ing Fri­day.

Last fall, the group was to meet in per­son in Ot­tawa to dis­cuss plas­tic pol­lu­tion but that meet­ing was down­graded first to a video chat and then to just a phone call. While of­fi­cials chalked it up to sched­ul­ing con­flicts, be­hind the scenes it was said that the car­bon­tax dis­agree­ment be­tween Ot­tawa and many prov­inces was to blame.

Still, dur­ing that call the prov­inces and Ot­tawa agreed to work to­ward cut­ting Canada’s waste in half by 2040 and try­ing to elim­i­nate plas­tic as a source of garbage al­to­gether.

Much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for plas­tics stan­dards and pro­ducer re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with provin­cial gov­ern­ments.

Canada only re­cy­cles about nine per cent of the plas­tic it pro­duces. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port pre­pared for En­vi­ron­ment Canada by Deloitte and ChemInfo Ser­vices, in 2016 Cana­di­ans threw out 3.3 mil­lion tonnes of plas­tic, 12 times more than was re­cy­cled.

“A nine per cent re­cy­cling rate is abysmal,” McKenna said, ahead of the meet­ing.

There are a lim­ited num­ber of re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties in Canada, and a lack of stan­dards for plas­tic pack­ag­ing makes it dif­fi­cult to re­cy­cle many items. Dif­fer­ent dyes or glues used in la­bels can make re­cy­cling im­pos­si­ble, for ex­am­ple.

The Deloitte re­port also men­tioned that it is still cheaper and eas­ier to pro­duce and use new plas­tic than it is to re­cy­cle and use re­cy­cled plas­tics. The re­port rec­om­mended set­ting stan­dards to re­quire pack­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als and other prod­ucts to use a set amount of re­cy­cled ma­te­rial to cre­ate new de­mand that would pro­pel growth in the do­mes­tic re­cy­cling in­dus­try.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced ear­lier this month that Canada was look­ing at ban­ning a num­ber of sin­gle-use plas­tic items within the next two years, in­clud­ing Sty­ro­foam take­out con­tain­ers, plas­tic straws and cut­lery.

The prod­ucts that will be banned won’t be de­ter­mined un­til the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act re­view process is com­pleted. But en­vi­ron­ment groups aren’t cer­tain the prov­inces and Ot­tawa are get­ting a strong enough mes­sage about the need to re­duce plas­tics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.