The Government of Canada announced today a new series of measures aimed at preventing plastic pollution and improving how plastics are made, used and managed, including the launch of consultations into proposed new labelling rules for products, requirements for recycled content in plastic packaging, and for reporting requirements for a planned plastics registry.

According to the government’s statement announcing the new initiatives, the new rules come as Canadians throw away 4.4 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, with only 9% recycled.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said:

“Plastics play an important role in the everyday lives of Canadians; however, the way plastic waste is managed in Canada is a growing concern we all share.”

One of the issues identified by the government challenging the sustainable disposal of plastics is the labelling of many products with the “chasing-arrows symbol” or as “biodegradable” that cannot be recycled or composted in local waste management systems.

Under the proposed rules, the use of the chasing-arrows symbol and other recyclability claims on plastic packaging and single-use plastics would be prohibited unless 80% of people in a province or territory have access to recycling systems that accept, sort, and re-process these plastics. The rules would also prohibit the use of terms including “degradable” or “biodegradable” in the labelling of plastic packaging and single-use items, and would set minimum standards for labelling of products as compostable.

The proposals also include requirements for minimum recycled content in certain types of plastic packaging, which the government said will help support stronger and more reliable end markets for recycled plastics, with benefits including improved recycling systems, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and the promotion of a circular economy for plastics.

The plastics registry would help track plastics in the economy, with annual reporting requirements for plastics placed on the Canadian market, including how they are managed at the end of their lives, and the publication of data on the lifecycle of plastics in Canada.

Guilbeault added:

“We must find a way to keep plastics out of the environment. That means requiring minimum recycled content in certain types of plastic packaging and providing Canadians with clearer labelling and better transparency, to help people better understand what they are buying and determine whether those plastics can be properly recycled in their community.”

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