Canada takes further steps on plastic recyclability, composability and tracking

4 minute read
12 August 2022

On July 25, 2022, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, launched consultations on two proposed changes to Canada's plastic products regulatory regime: (i) increasing the stringency of plastics labeling, and (ii) introducing a federal plastics registry.

Plastics labeling

With respect to labeling, Canada has proposed new regulations that would prohibit the use of the chasing-arrows symbol and other recyclability claims on plastic products unless at least 80% of Canadians have access to recycling systems that accept and have reliable end markets for the products. Canada has also proposed to introduce regulations requiring that products labeled as "compostable" and "biodegradable" be certified by a third-party organization. We note that the approach to "compostable" and "biodegradable" plastics may mirror that of Ontario's new Blue Box regulation, which defines "certified compostable product and packaging" as material that: "(i) is only capable of being processed by composting, anaerobic digestion or other processes that result in decomposition by bacteria or other living organisms, and (ii) is certified as compostable by an international, national or industry standard that is listed in the Blue Box Verification and Audit Procedure."

A draft regulatory text for labeling rules is targeted for publication by mid‑2023. Consultations on labeling will close for input on October 7, 2022.

Plastics registry

With respect to the plastic products registry, Canada has proposed the creation of a national registry to collect data on the life cycle of plastic products in Canada. Under this regime, producers of plastic products would be required to report the quantity of plastic products they place on the Canadian market and how such products are diverted from landfills at the end of their lives.

Consultations on the plastics registry will close for input on October 7, 2022.

Next steps

These proposed changes follow previous consultations on new federal regulations requiring minimum levels of recycled plastic in certain products (which closed on March 14, 2022), and Canada's recent publication of the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. They also follow the Competition Bureau's archiving of its longstanding Environmental Claims Guidelines in November 2021, which included requirements for recyclability and composting claims that were less restrictive than the newly proposed labeling requirements.

Gowling WLG is pleased to assist clients in participating in such consultations, ensuring compliance with the increasingly complex plastics regulations and assessing related liability risk exposure.

Should you have any specific questions about this article or would like to discuss it further, you can contact one of the authors or a member of our Environmental Law Group.

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