Some interesting news and an opportunity to have your say in Canadian policy! The Federal Government recently released a draft of Canada’s Sustainable Development Strategy for 2022 to 2026. This strategy will set the priorities in terms of environmental action for the next four years in Canada. It is a reflection of what environmental issues the federal government has identified as requiring prompt attention. The strategy also incorporates the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to encourage positive environmental outcomes across government organizations.
In building a sustainable future for Canada, the strategy outlines many different targets that tackle important issues from air pollution to clean energy, and how to carry out programs to achieve the Development Goals. Plastic pollution and waste reduction are important themes throughout the strategy, with plastic mentioned over seventy times in the two-hundred page document. However, what strikes us as a concern with the strategy is that while plastic pollution is a frequently mentioned topic for the federal government in this draft, there are only two targets specific to plastic waste reduction:
- Plastic packaging in Canada contains at least 50% recycled content by 2030, where feasible
- By 2032, reduce single-use plastics that are found in the environment, are not recycled, and have readily available alternatives that enter the waste stream by 4% and that enter the environment as pollution by 7%
These are significant targets that represent the ongoing work the federal government is doing, but there’s a missed opportunity to expand and prioritize the urgent action to address diverse sources of plastic waste with a diverse roster of solutions. We would anticipate a more ambitious federal target than hoping to reduce plastic waste entering the waste stream by 4% by 2032. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s mandate includes a series of goals to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030 and plastic waste reduction is a prominent policy intention. We believe that Canada’s development strategy targets should reflect the prominence of plastic waste reduction in the Minister’s mandate.
We know that currently only 9% of plastic is recycled in Canada annually. In the next ten years, we’ll need to make bigger commitments than a 4% increase in single-use plastic waste diversion to really make an impact. The Canadian government will need to set bold targets and work to develop innovative solutions for the plastic pollution problem. This will require more than two formal goals in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy related to plastic waste.
As always, the federal government has opened up the draft of the strategy to comments from Canadians. We have suggested several different areas in which the government could adopt further targets related to plastic waste reduction. Below, is a brief summary of those options:
- A target related to marine plastic waste– creating a plan to manage the end-of-life fishing gear that plagues Canadian waters on all coasts. Targets in this area must be proactive to prevent the occurence of abandoned, lost, and otherwise discarded fishing gear, and reduce the need for cleanups.
- A target related to end-of-life fishing gear extended producer responsibility (EPR)– The manufacturers of fishing gear should be responsible for the plastic waste and marine litter that their products create. A program that assigns responsibility to those manufacturers is essential to tackling the problem of fishing gear waste. The European Union has adopted a policy to manage end-of-life fishing gear, with Austria and Sweden having already introduced regulations that assign that responsibility to producers through EPR.
- A target related to flexible plastic packaging EPR– Only 1% of flexible plastic packaging (used for many household and food products) is recycled in Canada, and much of it isn’t recyclable because it’s made with a complex mix of materials. Without intervention, flexible plastic packaging will remain problematic, particularly in a system that does not hold producers fully responsible for post-consumer plastic waste management.
- A target related to single-use plastic bans– Expand on the current regulations, to ban items such as single-use plastic cups and cups with plastic films, produce bags and wrapping, plastic water bottles, and condiment sachets with the goal of reducing plastic waste. A formal target in the Strategy would encourage the creation of indicators and further measurement of the impacts of the ban, and how much plastic waste is reduced as a result.
- A target related to reusables and promoting reusable infrastructure– Many countries have not yet established formal policy in relation to reusable packaging as a solution for plastic waste, which would make Canada a true early adopter in this space. France currently has a policy to reduce single-use packaging by 20% by 2025, where half of the reduction must come from reusable solutions. The federal government should establish similar formal targets for reusability to enable greater tracking and benchmarking progress in our reusable systems.
We urge the Canadian government to consider the weight of the plastic pollution problem and understand the importance of formalizing plastic waste reduction goals through a specific set of goals in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Canadians can also submit a comment, and we encourage you to make a comment to let the federal government know that a sustainable development strategy should set meaningful and measurable goals to reduce plastic waste in Canada. This strategy will guide government organizations over the next four years and establish their top priorities. We think plastic should be higher on their list, and more prominent in their strategy. We’d love to hear from you and for you to share your thoughts about what you think should be a priority in plastic waste over the next four years.
You can share your views on the draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy with the federal government by:
- Submitting comments through the online version of the draft strategy using the comment boxes
- Providing feedback through the interactive consultation website, PlaceSpeak
- Replying to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn using the hashtag #FSDS
- Sending written comments or videos by email to SDO-BDD@ec.gc.ca
- Writing to the Sustainable Development Office, 200 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard, 7th floor, Gatineau, Québec, K1A 0H3
Comments are due by July 9th, 2022. Use your voice to shape the future of sustainability strategy right here in Canada!