by Tammy J. Murphy
Plastic pollution impacts the environment as well as human health. Plastics are comprised of both macroplastics and microplastics both of which occur in the environment and are of concern. Macroplastics are those that are larger than 5 mm while microplastics are equal to or smaller than 5 mm.
As such, the Government of Canada recently (mid October 2020) published a science assessment on plastic pollution, a proposed integrated management approach for plastic pollution, and a proposed order to add plastic manufactured items to Schedule 1, List of Toxic Substances, of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999).
Among other items, the “Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution” differentiates between “plastic waste” which are those “plastics that enter the waste stream (e.g., landfilled, recycled or incinerated)” and “plastic pollution” which is defined as “plastic that is discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the environment outside of a managed waste stream.” This report also further explains macroplastics, microplastics and nanoplastics but focuses on macro- and microplastics. These plastics are found in all aspects of the environment (air, water, sediment, soil, etc.) and degradation is slow and dependent on multiple factors. Both organisms and their habitats are affected by improperly discarded plastics. There are many sources of this waste including plastic packing, vehicle parts, appliances, cosmetics and personal care products, toys, chemical products, etc. The full document should be consulted for complete details.
Additionally, Environment and Climate Change Canada posted its “Proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products to Prevent Waste and Pollution.” This document seeks input on actions that the Government may take in regards to eliminating plastic pollution. Potential actions include the development of regulations as allowed per the CEPA, 1999 or issuing voluntary guidelines, etc. The goal would be to manage the lifecycle of plastic products to where a “circular plastics economy” is developed as opposed to the current, mainly “linear” plastics economy. The “circular plastics” economy would reduce the amount of plastic being disposed to landfills and/or released into the environment. Potential action items to achieve this goal is the elimination of plastic pollution at its source and the development of new technologies for recycling and/or recovering plastics (products, packaging, etc.). The public consultation period ends on 9 December 2020.
Finally, a proposal that would add “Plastic Manufactured Items” to CEPA, 1999, Schedule 1, List of Toxic Substances was published in Part I of the October 10, 2020 edition of the Canada Gazette. The addition of a substance to this list allows for the development of risk management strategies, if needed, for substances that are determined to be “toxic,” as per CEPA, 1999. This may be accomplished through the implementation of preventive and/or control actions for any or all phases of that substance’s life cycle. Plastic manufactured items are those that are “made of plastic formed into a specific physical shape or design during manufacture, and have, for their intended use, a function or functions dependent in whole or in part on their shape or design.” Any such item, whether a component or finished product, may become waste and/or pollution. There is a 60-day public comment period for the proposed order, which commenced on the date of publication. The notice of objection period is the same as the public comment period.
Additional information, including more details on Plastic Pollution, may be found on the Government’s Chemical Substances website. The full text of the proposed amendment can be found in the respective issue of the Canada Gazette.
Recommended Action Items:
- Become familiar with the Science Assessment and assess if any products have the potential to become plastic waste and/or plastic pollution.
- Read the Proposed Integrated Management Approach and assess how it may impact current and/or future products and the management of the waste. If applicable, offer comments prior to the end of the respective public comment period.
- Determine if any current and/or future products are covered under the Proposed Order and if desired, offer comments or objections prior to the end of the respective public comment period.
Government of Canada, Chemical Substances, Plastic Pollution website https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/other-chemical-substances-interest/plastic-pollution.html#a2
Department of the Environment and Department of Health, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Proposed “Order Adding a Toxic Substance to Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.” Canada Gazette, Part I, 10 October 2020 edition (see pages 2733 to 2746): http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2020/2020-10-10/pdf/g1-15441.pdf
Department of the Environment and Department of Health, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, “Publication of the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution (paragraphs 68(b) and (c) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.” Canada Gazette, Part I, 10 October 2020 edition (see pages 2752 to 2758): http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2020/2020-10-10/pdf/g1-15441.pdf
Canada, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999), Schedule 1, List of Toxic Substances, Plastic Pollution, Plastic Manufactured Items
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