The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) has questioned the federal Canadian government’s zero plastic waste policy, suggesting that it is in opposition to current and potential plastic industry innovations.
At the end of 2021, the Government of Canada published its proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations and Guidance for Selecting Alternatives to the Single-Use Plastics in the Proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. Those regulations propose to prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of single-use plastic checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws, and the guidance is intended to help businesses transition away from those single-use plastics.
That’s part of a federal drive to divert at least 75 per cent of plastic waste from federal operations by 2030, eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use plastics, and purchase more sustainable plastic products that can be reused, recycled, repaired or repurposed.
Some regional jurisdictions have set their own timelines, including Montreal, which announced last summer that it will be banning single-use plastic shopping bags in retail stores starting Aug. 23, 2022, and will phase out several other plastic items used in retail and restaurants by March 2023.
However, an MEI study today asserts that the federal government’s “zero plastic waste” policy will hurt the economy without any guarantee of helping the environment.
“The government’s zero plastic waste policy will hurt the Canadian economy and workers and create an uncertain climate for investors, who may choose to put their money elsewhere,” said Gabriel Giguère, public policy analyst at the MEI and author of the study. “And it won’t exactly help the country improve when it comes to private investment; Canada already has the worst record in the OECD.”
The report calls plastic “an incredibly strategic industry” and “an essential material that’s necessary to modern society and is likely to continue increasing in use, perhaps even doubling, by 2050.”
It adds that there is no guarantee that a ban on plastic shopping bags will reduce Canada’s carbon footprint. It cites the example of California, where it says the 40 million tonnes of plastic bag waste eliminated by a ban were offset by a 12 million tonne increase in the use of thicker garbage bags, which emit more greenhouse gases.
The MEI suggests that the government remove the “plastic manufactured items” label from Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and end the ban on the single–use plastic products currently covered by the federal policy, as well as stimulate innovation using tax cuts or credits, not subsidies, to encourage the implementation of new or proven technologies and increase recycling rates.