Value recovery on plastic waste in Canada | Knowledge Hub | Circle Economy Foundation
Policy case
Value recovery on plastic waste in Canada

In 2018, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment put forward a two-phase action plan to create a circular economy for plastics. The plan cites the harm that plastic pollution has caused to land and water environments, as well as the economic losses the country has faced due to poor recovery and valorisation. While the strategy aims for zero waste, it does not aim for zero plastic, but rather a reduction and interventions that keep what is made in use for longer. Through this strategy, the Council hopes to create thousands of jobs and save millions of Canadian dollars.


Currently, only about 9% of Canada’s plastic waste is recycled—the 91% that is not represents an economic loss of CA$7.8 billion. This figure considers plastic in many forms, including those that are difficult to collect or recycle, such as plastics found in packaging, clothing, cars and construction waste. The lacking capacity for value recovery and reuse means that critical amounts of plastic have entered the environment, causing many harmful impacts. For example, it is predicted that 10,000 metric tonnes of plastic are fed into the Great Lakes in Ontario every year, including microbeads from cosmetics and toiletries, droplets from commercial and industrial sources, clothing fibre and litter (plastic bags, bottles, straws and cigarette butts).


The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has approved a country-wide strategy on zero plastic waste. Through this plan, it hopes to prevent plastic use, and improve collection and value recovery and achieve a circular economy for plastics. The plan will be released in two phases: the first will focus on improving product design, decreasing the use of single-use plastics, improving collection systems and increasing recycling capacity. The second phase will primarily aim to prevent plastic pollution in oceans, lakes and waterways; science and technology will be deployed to monitor the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment. Consumer awareness and participatory clean-up programmes will also be included under phase two. Priority actions will include the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility programmes, strengthening of disposable plastic product management, creation of national performance requirements and standards and incentives for a circular economy, development of infrastructure and innovation investments, and public procurement and green operations.


It is estimated that such a plan for a circular economy for plastics could save Canada CA$500 million in costs annually, create 42,000 jobs and prevent 1.82 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents from entering the atmosphere. The council will regularly report progress to Ministers, starting in 2020, which will also ensure accountability to Canadian citizens.

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