The Canadian government’s plan to track plastic could put more money in consumers’ pockets and help keep plastic waste from ending up in landfills.
The government announced on Tuesday that it is seeking views on a new national plastics register. Experts say a lucrative system could be created to encourage companies to collect waste plastic and compensate Canadians and retailers who bring in the waste.
“Plastic waste is a commodity like anything else,” says Calvin Lacan, a research fellow in York University’s School of Environment and Urban Change. “At the moment, recycling plastics is not very successful.”
The registry will track a variety of plastic products produced in Canada. This could include everything from food and drink containers to household appliances, clothing, tires and fishing gear. Government documents say reporting requirements are likely to apply to plastic producers rather than consumers.
“Governments will use this information to measure progress towards zero plastic waste and inform action to accelerate the transition to a circular economy,” one person said. news release From Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The federal government says manufacturers of plastic products have a responsibility to report how much of their product reaches the market and what happens to it in the end.
The federal government says Canadians threw away 4.4 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2019 alone. Only 9% was recycled.
While the registry’s main purpose is to reduce pollution and harm from plastic waste, the government said it could also help companies “make investment decisions that improve the design, production, collection and management of plastics”. Says.
according to an economic studyPlastics that ended up in trash or landfill represented a $7.8 billion lost opportunity for Canada in 2016.
More plastic deposition programs
One way plastic producers can track their products at the end of their life is to pay consumers or other users to return the product, as they do with many alcoholic beverage containers. is.
It’s already happening in British Columbia. Tightening state waste management regulations Hold manufacturers, distributors, and retailers accountable for what happens to the products they sell.
One of the solutions the industry has developed to track waste is a network of more than 160 Return-It depots located across B.C. At the depot, a deposit is paid in exchange for glass or plastic bottles, drink boxes with straws, drink pouches and even empty wine bags.
BC’s systems have been tracking BC’s plastic waste for 30 years and have collected more than 25 billion beverage containers.
“We have a solid plastics registry in place,” said Cindy Coutts, President and CEO of Return-It. “We have most of the data that the (federal) registry is looking for.”
To comply with new federal regulations, manufacturers in other parts of the country may wish to adopt similar return incentive models. Lacan said the model offers “huge opportunities” for consumers and businesses.
“We have the ability to actually incentivize consumers… through return mechanisms to ensure that they can collect their plastic so that it doesn’t end up in landfills or the environment.” said Lacan.
One grocer in the capital has already introduced a deposit return system to track and reduce plastic emissions.
Red Apron, a gourmet grocery store in downtown Ottawa, sells ready-to-eat meals. They used to use flimsy containers, but now they mostly offer hard bowls that customers can return. For each container returned, the customer receives between $0.50 and $1.00. You can also donate your deposit fees.
“This is working. It makes sense. It’s proving to be successful,” said Red Apron founder and co-owner Jennifer Heagle. “More than 200,000 containers have been used by us and 90 percent have been returned.”
Grocery stores bag returned bowls (customers often wash them before returning them) and their supplier, clean-tech startup Friendly, picks them up, sanitizes them, and returns them. Its cost is high, but comparable to the cost of disposable food containers.
Friendlier’s customer base also includes other locations where food is served, such as school cafeterias. Jacqueline Hutchings, the company’s co-founder and chief revenue officer, said some students are using the incentive model as an opportunity to make money.
“We see students actually walking around on college and university campuses, collecting these containers from abandoned tables and trash, scanning them and saving money to put toward different initiatives.” she said.
However, only some plastic products can be tracked through these incentive programs. Some items inevitably slip into the black hole of Canada’s waste system.
Groups representing manufacturers say the government’s plastics registration system will place an unfair burden on the packaging industry.
Food, Health and Consumer Products Canada, an industry group of more than 100 members from the consumer goods industry, broadly supports tracing plastics, but some of the things Ottawa is asking of producers are impossible. states that it will be.
“We understand that they are trying to get as much information as possible, but they are putting the onus on producers to follow up on the information they don’t have,” said Michael Graydon, the group’s chief executive. ” he said.
Graydon said the industry already shares a lot of information with the provincial and territorial governments responsible for waste disposal in Canada. He said the government’s proposals could create unnecessary duplication.
The industry is not alone in expressing concern. Alberta Premier Daniel Smith suggested the federal plastics registry could be a federal overreach.
The National Plastics Registry…kind of like a handgun…is run by Minister Stephen Guilbeault 🤔
Alberta’s environment minister said in a subsequent statement that the proposed plastics registry would be a “waste of time and a waste of taxpayers’ money” that would increase the cost of goods.
“Alberta is committed to effective plastics management, but that is clearly a provincial and territorial jurisdiction,” said Rebecca Schulz. “Ottawa needs to go its own way, rather than create yet another costly and ineffective program that sounds good to Minister Guilbeault but provides little benefit to the environment.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada said in a news release that the registry will “complement existing reporting requirements such as provincial and territorial programs.”
The registration system is expected to be phased in from 2025, before being fully launched in 2028. The federal government said it supports its goal of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030. consulting Registry development is available until February 13th.