New Recycling Standard in Canada: What Does This Mean?

This national standard will provide a common framework and consistent definitions for plastics recycling across Canada.

Plastic Manufacturing. UpKeep.

A new recycling standard in Canada that targets all non-biodegradable plastics for all plastic products and packaging has been drafted, defining how and when these items are determined to be recycled.

The CSA Group has determined that for materials to be considered as recycled, the end result of the recycled material should be a new plastic product.

But what does this mean, is it needed, and why does it matter? Let’s break it down

Why do Recycling Standards Matter?

It may come to a surprise that even if you are diligently disposing of your plastic items in the recycling bin, only 9% of plastic generated by various sectors is actually recycled in Canada.1

Why? Because there is no clear consensus on what ‘recycling’ and ‘recyclability’ means. As a result, policymakers, recyclers, and manufacturers, etc. may use different terminology, processes, and guidelines across the country. This also makes it difficult for recyclers to select the proper sorting and recycling methods for the materials at hand.

Many materials lost along the way, and it is not clear at which step of the recycling value chain a product can be considered recycled or what the measurable outcomes are. 

Who Is the CSA Group?

The CSA Group works to establish and build standards in testing, inspection, and certification that allow manufacturers to confirm that their products meet specific qualifications. They have published more than 3,000 codes and standards used across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Is a National Standard For Plastics Recycling Needed?

A national standard for plastics recycling helps resolve some of the confusion that exists around the plastics recycling process, and ensure that measured and reported recycling rates, targets, and policies used by regulators and governments are accurate.

The drafted definitions and reporting and measuring standards are crucial:

  • Assist in identifying materials that can be accurately labeled as recycled.
  • Allow consistent measurement, tracking, and monitoring of the circularity of plastics (from plastic waste collection to the reuse of plastics in manufacturing)2
  • Consistent and transparent data makes it possible to identify gaps in data to support the development of global baseline measurements

So What is the CSA’s Proposed New Standard?

The CSA’s standard aims to apply to all plastic products and packaging that are non-biodegradable. It will determine how and when a recycled product is officially determined to be recycled as well as clarify any technical calculations that may be required.

The standard defines recycling as “the processing of waste materials to produce secondary material(s) from which new products are made.”

Crucially, they suggest recycling doesn’t include burning plastic for waste-to-energy or fuel purposes, landfill cover, reuse of materials, and decomposition of materials into greenhouse gases.

While this would typically exclude many chemical recycling processes, both mechanical and chemical recycling may be considered under this definition, as long as it fulfills the criteria of waste becoming a material used to create a new product.

What’s Next?

It’s essential that as we develop more circular systems and processes, we have clear definitions we can lean on to demonstrate the validity of sustainability claims. With a 9% recycling rate for plastics globally, we know the struggles associated with plastic recycling. If these definitions and standards are applied successfully to ensure plastic waste materials are accurately being processed to create equivalent plastic products, we can feel more confident about the claims being made by actors throughout the recycling system.

The proposed standard is available online until March 17th for a public review and comment period. Read the draft here.

Need help reducing plastic waste in your business? Learn more about our Plastic Awareness and Reduction Toolkits or contact us.

Picture of Michelle Brake, Author
Michelle Brake, Author

Programs and Policy Manager

Picture of Erica Wong, Editor
Erica Wong, Editor

Marketing and Communications Specialist

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