Manufacturers, chemical industry unhappy with federal plastics ban

Canadian manufacturers and the plastics industry are speaking out against the single use plastic ban introduced on Monday by the federal government.

But environmental groups expressed hope that the ban would reduce plastic pollution.

The ban covers six categories of single-use plastics in Canada, including plastic bags, cutlery, stir sticks, six-pack rings, straws and hard-to-recycle plastic takeout containers. It will take effect in December 2022, with a few exceptions. Sales of prohibited items will be allowed until December 2023.

The export of items in the banned categories will also be prohibited by the end of 2025. Canada will be the first among its peers to effect an export ban, and only the second country to do so.

Chemical industry

The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), which represents 200 organizations across the country, expressed disappointment with the bans. CIAC maintains that bans of some single use plastic items will not solve the overall problem of plastics pollution and the management of post-consumer plastics. 

CIAC estimates that demand for plastics is expected to triple by 2050 “to meet climate change and emission goals because plastics is an energy efficient material with a lower environmental footprint than most alternatives.” The plastics sector contributes $35 billion annually to the Canadian economy, and employs over 100,000.

The association also said that while the export ban will be harmful to many of its members, it appreciates “the delay of export restrictions to 2025 as this will allow Canadian companies the time to pivot.”

Manufacturers miffed

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) said Canadian manufacturers do not believe an outright ban will accomplish the goal of reducing plastic pollution. In a statement CME said: “As industry has repeatedly said, the better approach is to develop a circular economy that treats plastics as a resource to be managed and recycled back into the Canadian economy rather than ending up in a landfill.”

“Canada acting alone to ban single-use plastics without coordinating with other countries will do little to move the needle on reducing plastic pollution. It will punish Canadian manufacturers and all their suppliers,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of CME.

“Production of these products will just move to the U.S. or to other countries and we will still have not solved the problem.”

A victory

Oceans advocacy group Oceana Canada called the announcement a victory. “Today’s announcement ensures that Canada is embarking on a true transition away from unnecessary single-use plastics; this victory means that billions of plastic items each year that otherwise could have threatened sea life like whales and turtles will no longer be adding to the global plastic disaster,” said Anthony Merante, plastics campaigner at Oceana Canada.

“We will continue working with Canadians and the government to ensure more unnecessary single-use plastics are added to the list of banned items moving forward.”

The organization said the bans will remove 33 billion units of single-use plastics from the total waste entering the oceans every year.