Fighting for accountability for plastics pollution

T-824-21 – Responsible Plastic Use Coalition et al v Minister of the Environment, et al
"As it decomposes, an albatross carcass reveals the plastic the bird consumed before it died" by ericdalecreative
Program area – Healthy communities Status: In progress
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In May 2021, the federal government added plastic manufactured items as a toxic substance under Canada’s primary environmental law – the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This is a critical first step towards combatting the growing crisis of plastic pollution.

About 3.3 million tonnes of plastic are discarded in Canada each year, and only 9 per cent — about 305,000 tonnes — is recycled. The remainder ends up in landfills, incinerated, or finds its way into rivers, lakes and oceans. At our current dump rate, there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050.

Plastic pollution – and efforts to clean it up – comes with a high price tag. The plastic we throw away represents about $8 billion in lost revenue every year. It is estimated that the cost of cleaning up plastic pollution in the Great Lakes area alone (U.S. and Canada) is about $468 million a year.

Plastics are a harmful pollutant that burden our economy and threaten the health of our environment including our wildlife, rivers, lakes and oceans. Listing plastics as a toxic substance under CEPA enables the government to make regulations that will help mitigate environmental and health concerns at every stage of the plastics life cycle, including banning harmful single-use plastics, establishing recycled content requirements, and expanding extended producer responsibility.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the harms posed by plastics pollution, a coalition of Canada’s largest plastics manufacturers has since decided to challenge the government’s decision with a lawsuit.

With your support, we’re headed to court on behalf of Oceana Canada and Environmental Defence. There, we’ll be fighting to protect and uphold the government’s ability to regulate plastic pollution.

Industry opposition to plastics regulation is out of step with science and public opinion. In fact, 90 per cent of people across Canada support a ban on single-use plastics and two-thirds want the proposed ban to be expanded even further.

It is well within the federal government’s authority to regulate plastic at all stages of its lifecycle. By listing plastics as a toxic substance under CEPA, the government took a vital, much-needed first step toward curbing plastic pollution and ensuring the plastics industry is effectively regulated and its harms mitigated. Ecojustice is intervening in this lawsuit to uphold the government’s decision.

Regulating plastic can help fuel product and system innovations and shape new consumer habits that will benefit us all – similar to how seatbelt regulations led to a reduction in vehicle fatality rates and led to improved vehicle safety features.

Listing plastics as toxic under CEPA is an important first step in a larger vision that includes, among other things, establishing performance standards with recycled content requirements and ensuring end-of-life responsibility.

Key developments

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