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Canada on track to eliminate plastic waste on time

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick Archives La Presse canadienne Le commissaire à l’environnement et au développement durable du Canada, Jerry DeMarco.

Despite its efforts, the Government of Canada does not know if it will really succeed in eliminating, as promised by 2030, the sending to landfills, or the abandonment in nature, of the four million tonnes of plastic waste produced in country each year.

Canada's Environment Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco on Tuesday released a critique of Canada's strategy titled “Zero Plastic Waste by 2030.” Despite its name, the initiative does not measure the progress made towards its long-term target, namely the elimination of this waste, while in theory there are only six years left on the clock.

His report comes, by chance, on the last day of negotiations in Ottawa for a global treaty on plastic pollution, for which countries have not been able to agree on a ceiling on production of the materials plastics.

The department charged in 2019 with coordinating the ambitious task of solving the problem of plastic pollution in Canada is Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). However, its reports are content to monitor its modest reduction objectives from one year to the next.

In 2022, its efforts would have succeeded in diverting landfills or the environment 325 tonnes of plastics, more than its target of 300 tonnes. However, these hundreds of tonnes only represent less than 0.01% of the total weight of plastics that Canadians throw in trash, or leave in the environment, each year.

“Even though the name of the horizontal initiative specified “zero” plastic waste […], the initiative's targets only mentioned “reduction” and “decreasing trend”, were not “not assessed against the ultimate goal of zero plastic waste and did not define a path forward to achieve this goal,” writes Commissioner DeMarco, an employee of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Approximately 70% of plastics in circulation end their lives in garbage, and it is estimated that Canada increased the volume of this waste by 15% between 2012 and 2018, from 3.5 to 4 million tonnes annually.

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Objective required

The government's plan is to eventually repair, reuse, repackage or recycle all plastic already in circulation. This is an “ambitious” goal, the commissioner agrees, but monitoring this long-term goal is important since plastic pollution has well-documented detrimental effects on wildlife and habitats, both on land than at sea. Since plastic also contaminates the food chain, this form of pollution is also raising increasing concerns for human health.

Unfortunately, the Government of Canada only has incomplete estimates of the extent of the problem, which are also released years late. The result: policymakers don't know if they're on track to truly end plastic in landfills, incinerators, forests, and oceans.

For example, the next Statistics Canada's report on plastic is expected in March 2024, but its data will end in 2020. At this rate, we would have to wait until 2034 to know whether the 2030 reduction target is met or missed. Additionally, Environment and Climate Change Canada still needs to create a federal plastics registry to standardize data.

The portrait painted by the Environment Commissioner of the “zero plastic waste by 2030” objective, a mixed strategy involving both the federal government and the provinces, is not entirely negative. He cites several good moves and certain progress made by the government. For example, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has successfully removed enough abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (“ghosts”) from the waters to meet its objectives.

The Canada's environmental commissioner also published four other reports on Tuesday, in which he notably paints a grim picture of the management of abandoned contaminated mining sites in the North, as well as a failure of the Net Zero Accelerator initiative. , which fails to encourage high-emission manufacturing industries to decarbonize their activities.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116