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Thứ Ba, ngày 16/04/2024

Canada declares plastic toxic and plans to ban single use plastic items


    According to a 2019 study commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), about 3.3 million metric tons of plastic is discarded in Canada each year, and less than 10 percent - about 305,000 metric tons - is recycled. The remainder goes to landfills, incineration, or leaks into rivers, lakes and oceans, and about one-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging, including up to 15 billion plastic bags used every year and close to 57 million straws used daily.

    Plastic is toxic

    A 2020 Canadian Government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the Government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both. The Government argues that voluntary measures, as championed by industry, are not enough to effectively counter increasing plastic pollution. Measures can be taken for individual plastic products. In other words, the law needs to be enforceable on a case-by-case basis.

    Canada is taking this revolutionary step so that it can further reduce the plastic in the environment. In doing so, Canada will follow a well-trodden path. A few years ago, plastic particles in personal care products were declared toxic by law which paved the way for a ban.

    The current list of toxic substances under Canadian Environmental Law -the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) - will be extended to contain “plastic items”. This creates the space for plastic to potentially be declared toxic. This modification is the legal basis to evaluate each individual plastic product for risks to the environment and to human health. This will be the case if these products are found or may be found in worrying quantities in the environment. However, the new Law does not state that plastic is toxic. It is about having the option of carrying out a risk analysis for each plastic product from now on. Depending on the outcomes of the analysis, prevention measures can be put in place.

    Canada is considering banning certain items

    The Canadian Government’s goal is that there is no more plastic in the environment by 2030. The new Law is viewed as a legal basis for banning certain items from single use plastic (SUP). The country is considering a ban on some plastic items like straws, stirrers, cutlery, six-pack rings, thin supermarket bags, Styrofoam items and take-away food packaging. The list of toxic substances (CEPA) now paves the way for a ban on the use and sale of these items nationwide by the end of 2021.

The new Law is viewed as a legal basis for banning certain items from single use plastic in Canada

    The Environment Minister said the Canadian Government selected these items because there are already available and affordable alternatives and that while many items will have to continue to be single-use, they need to be items that can be recycled. The only way to prevent toxic substances from getting into the environment is to ban all of them. The Government wants to tackle the climate crisis, protect our oceans and move toward a circular economy, but as long as single-use plastics continue to be produced at current rates, there is no incentive for companies to transition to cleaner and healthier reuse models.

    Calls for reductions and bans on single-use plastics are growing across nations and cities around the world and even from huge multinationals. Canada joins a growing list of countries using bans to confront the problem of excess waste that often ends up littering oceans, lakes and other waterways. Some Canadian jurisdictions already have their own bans in place. Prince Edward Island became the first Province in Canada to ban plastic bags outright, followed by Newfoundland. Tofino and Ucluelet in B.C. have enacted bans on plastic bags and straws. Vancouver has approved a ban on plastic straws and will enact a plastic bag ban by 2021. Victoria has already banned plastic bags, along with Montreal.

    New recycled content requirements 

    When the Ban on single-use plastics was first announced, the Federal Government said it would be focusing on holding big companies responsible for their plastic production, requiring them to play a part in collecting and recycling their materials. The announcement includes a proposal to establish recycled content requirements in products and packaging, which the federal government says will spark investment in recycling infrastructure and innovation in technology to extend the life of plastic materials to keep them in the economy, and out of the environment for longer. The Federal Government has a target of at least 50 percent recycled content in plastic products by 2030.

    Under the new regulations the Canadian Government will require a minimum percentage of recycled content; rules for measuring and evaluating the amount of recycled content; guidelines and related tools to help companies meet their requirements.

    The Federal Government will be publishing a proposed order to add “plastic manufactured items” to the list of regulated products under Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The environmental organization calls on the Government to not only ban SUP items, but to actively bring about systems change.

Phương Linh

(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition III - 2021)

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