The Federal Court of Canada released its decision on November 16, 2023, in Responsible Plastics Use Coalition v Canada, which held that the federal government’s labelling of all plastic manufactured items (PMI) as toxic was both unreasonable and unconstitutional.
In response, the government filed an appeal on December 8, reinforcing its position that plastic is toxic to the environment.
“The science is clear: plastic pollution is everywhere, and it harms wildlife and damages the environment. It is found across Canada and the world. In addition, emerging science continues to show that people are exposed to microplastics through the air, water, soil, and even the food they eat,” said environment minister Steven Guilbeault, in a statement.
“Overwhelmingly, Canadians say they don’t want to see plastic polluting their communities, they are worried about microplastics and they want more environmentally friendly product options in their day-to-day lives. That’s what we’re going to keep fighting for.”
The Trudeau government’s ban on six types of single-use plastics, including cutlery, checkout bags, and straws, came into effect in 2022 as part of an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
In response, a group of companies with petrochemical operations applied for a judicial review of the federal cabinet’s order to add PMI to the List of Toxic Substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan also intervened to support the argument that the order was the latest example of federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction.
The court agreed that the ban was unreasonable.
According to analysis from the Fraser Institute, the federal government’s own research shows that banning single-use plastics will actually increase waste generation rather than reduce it. “According to the analysis, while the regulation will remove 1.5 million tonnes of plastics from 2023 to 2032, it will almost double that tonnage in substitutes such as paper, wood and aluminum over the same period. In other words, the ban will increase, not decrease, the amount of net garbage in Canada,” the Fraser report said.
But in his statement minister Guilbeault continued: “The Government of Canada has an evidence-based and comprehensive plan to cut plastic pollution through a range of complementary actions. This plan seeks to guide Canada toward a more circular economy. Already, businesses across the country have stepped up and successfully transitioned to sustainable alternatives, leading to significant reductions in plastic pollution.
“The Government of Canada will keep working with provinces, territories, civil society, Indigenous partners, industry, and others to improve how plastic is made, used, and managed in Canada.
“Together, with our partners, we can achieve a positive change and create the systems needed to keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.”