However, others, like the chairman of the Canada Plastics Pact, told the panel that they are creating jobs because the government is focused on making plastics more circular.
George Roter, executive director of the pact, referred to a 2019 study in Alberta that found a potential 6,000 jobs and $ 700 million per year for economic activities with more recycling. And he accepted a September 2020 announcement from resin supplier Nova Chemicals Corp. and recycler Merlin Plastics Supply Inc. for a multimillion dollar project to expand post-consumer plastics recycling.
“Canada has the R&D infrastructure backed by leading academic institutions that is already driving this type of innovation in established companies and startups, and more is possible,” said Roter.
Members of the pact, which includes consumer brands like Coca-Cola Canada, Danone and Colgate-Palmolive, are divided over the Canadian government’s proposed bans, Roter said.
Nonetheless, he said all companies in the pact had committed to change, including redesigning their packaging to eliminate “problem plastics”. These will be defined in the future work of the group that started in January.
He said the Pact members are pushing for a much bigger role for the Canadian government.
“The Federal Government has the opportunity to set up an industrial policy agenda for a recycling economy for plastics,” said Roter, pointing out the need for national standards for recycling and the use of recycled content in products.
He also said that federal government purchasing can increase demand for products with recycled content, and the national government can assist provincial governments in developing rules to increase producer responsibility for handling plastic waste.
Discussions at the hearing were wide-ranging, with Masterson saying the industry accepts “a shared responsibility” for managing plastic waste and supports the government’s goal of removing plastic waste from the environment.
Galt pointed to a 75 percent recycling rate for PET bottles in Canada and said the government should support minimum standards for recycled content for all products, not just plastics.
He said Canada should view Germany and Norway as the “gold standard” in plastic recycling systems, and he praised container deposit programs as “strong” incentives for returning containers for recycling.
He also said the government should take into account that paper, glass or aluminum containers have at least 1.6 times the carbon footprint of PET bottles.
However, other witnesses focused on parts of the plastic packaging chain that are much more problematic for recycling than PET bottles.
Roter said only 12 percent of all plastic packaging in the country is recycled, and a member of parliament, Ya’ara Saks, expressed concern that Canada produces 20 times more virgin plastic a year than it recycles.
Chelsea Rochman, a professor at the University of Toronto and a prominent researcher on plastic pollution, said emerging research on microplastics supports a CEPA toxin award.
She said studies found 100 pieces of microplastic in individual fish in Lake Ontario and measured 100-120 particles per liter in Canadian waters.
“This concentration can already be found in parts of our Great Lakes,” she said. “We still have a lot to learn about the different types of plastics, but we know that the concentrations we find in nature, high concentrations, can be toxic to freshwater and marine animals.
“When it comes to human health, we know that our drinking water contains microplastics, we know that there is microplastic in the seafood we eat,” she said. “We don’t yet know how this will affect human health, so it’s still kind of a black box.”