Frequently asked questions
What is industry doing to help address plastic waste?
Plastic makers are leading efforts towards a waste free circular economy for plastics through improved product designs, building innovative, more advanced recycling, and collaborating with all levels of governments. By adopting programs where plastic producers pay for and manage the products they produce, throughout the lifecycle of that product, industry is helping to develop economies of scale, and establish packaging and recycled-content goals, which can help drive demand and create new markets. Additionally, several Canadian companies have made significant investments in advanced recycling technologies and other programs throughout Canada to modernize and advance recycling systems towards a circular economy.
What is a circular economy for plastics?
We still live in a traditional linear economy, where most of the products start as raw materials and are eventually thrown away in a landfill. A circular economy for plastics, on the other hand, is a new economic model where plastics don’t ever become waste- rather they are reused, recycled, and recovered at the end of their life so that they can forever stay in the economy as new products and new plastics.
What is Advanced Recycling Technology (ART)?
Advanced Recycling Technology converts plastics into their original building blocks. This technology helps us capture more value from plastics because we can transform them into feedstock for new plastics, energy sources, and other products. Companies are creating innovative technologies to accomplish ART, like Pyrowave—which uses microwave technology to transform plastics infinitely into new items
What are the potential impacts of the Federal Government’s plan to ban certain plastic products?
There are better ways to achieve a zero-waste economy than specific product bans. The problem is that a small percentage of plastics – despite their use and benefits – are ending up in the environment at the end of their life rather than back into the economy through reuse, recycling and recovery infrastructure. In fact, bans on plastics could wind up being worse for our environment. Studies have shown that replacing plastic packaging with alternatives will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions from transportation because these materials are much heavier than plastic. A ban on single-use plastics also doesn’t address many of the current issues with low recycling and recovery rates. A lifecycle view of plastics—from their design to the infrastructure we need to recycle them and the technologies and innovations that will turn them into new products—would effectively eliminate plastic waste and enable Canada to continue using this valuable resource.
How can we fix the problem of plastic waste?
Greater collaboration between government and industry is integral in developing the end-market use of recycled plastics. Together, we must develop and adopt circular economy policies, as outlined in the CCME National Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. If implemented, it could create 42,000 jobs and save the country $500 million per year.
Circular economy programs, like plastics producer responsibility and alternative recycling technologies (ART), will also allow us to manage plastics waste through reduction, re-use, recycling, and energy recovery.
What’s wrong with Canada’s current recycling system and infrastructure?
In Canada, only 9 per cent of plastics are recycled. This is due to issues with sorting, cleaning plastics prior to recycling, insufficient recycling infrastructure, and the lack of markets to incentivize the use of recycled plastics. To truly improve recycling in Canada, governments and businesses need to continue to work together, as well as invest in innovative technologies and solutions. Some provinces have recycling models that could be used for national, harmonized policies. CIAC supports the model being used in British Columbia, which sees all recycling handled by the non-profit organization, Recycle BC. The program’s costs are covered by businesses in the province that create packaging or products. As a result, B.C. has the highest rate of waste recovery in Canada (78 per cent) and one of the lowest rates of contamination (6.5 per cent).
How would a plastics ban impact the Canadian economy?
Experts anticipate that the impact and job losses tied to a plastics ban would be felt in communities across the country by family-run companies that have been operating for multiple generations. Canada’s plastics manufacturers add $28 billion to the national economy annually and directly employ over 93,000 Canadians within 1,850 different businesses. Moreover, there is the misconception that many of these manufacturers are large companies, when—in reality—86 per cent of these manufacturers are small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).
The Federal Government intends to regulate some harmful plastics under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Schedule I. Why doesn’t industry support this decision?
CIAC firmly believes that CEPA is not an appropriate tool for managing post-consumer plastic waste – and is certainly not the solution for eliminating it. CEPA is a criminal law statute that is designed to regulate specific substances, not consumer products. Listing plastic items on Schedule 1 of CEPA could drastically impede the ability of industry and the provinces to develop sustainable circular economy practices for plastics. Instead, we believe governments must to develop a comprehensive framework dedicated entirely to managing waste. This would provide the appropriate authorities and tools to support advancing a circular economy for plastics in Canada.