Will single-use plastics return with the federal ban overturned? Unlikely – National

The Federal Court’s ruling that Ottawa’s ban on single-use plastics is “unconstitutional and unreasonable” is causing disappointment among some in the environmental movement.

And it also raises the question of whether banned plastic bags, straws and takeout containers could make a comeback.

“I mean, we were very disappointed. And this is a real setback for the federal government’s plans to tackle the plastic pollution crisis,” said Ashley Wallis, a*sociate director of Environmental Defense in Toronto.

Environmental Defense and Greenpeace Canada are calling on the federal government to appeal the decision, which Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he was “seriously considering.”

But where do things go from here?

The legal challenge was brought by a group called the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC), made up of plastic producers including Dow Chemical and Imperial Oil.

Story continues below advertisement

They successfully argued that the May 2021 Cabinet Order cla*sifying “manufactured plastic items” as toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) was too broad.

In a statement, the RPUC said it was pleased that the court upheld the provisions of CEPA and believes that industry and government can work together to reduce plastic waste.

This cla*sification has allowed Ottawa to ban a wide variety of single-use plastics, because under CEPA the federal government can ban toxic substances.

With this cla*sification retroactively canceled, does this mean that single-use plastics like bags and straws will make a comeback?

Unlikely, it seems.

Two of Canada’s largest grocers, Loblaws and Metro, both told PKBNEWS they would not bring back plastic shopping bags.

Story continues below advertisement

“No. Loblaw’s elimination of single-use plastic bags was part of our broader commitment to make 100 percent of all our in-store and control brand plastic packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025,” Loblaws said in an email response when asked if it planned to bring plastic bags.

“No, we are not planning to bring back plastic bags,” replied Geneviève Grégoire, communications manager for the Metro, to the same question.

Walmart Canada says its work to eliminate plastic bags from its stores began in 2019 and estimates that it removes 680 million from circulation each year.

“We made this change as an important step in our journey to becoming a regenerative company, well ahead of the regulations announced by the government, because it was the right thing to do,” said Stephanie Fusco of Walmart Canada Corporate Affairs.

PKBNEWS has reached out to other major grocers and will update their responses.

Several provinces and territories, including British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Yukon, also all have their own regulations banning plastic from single use to varying degrees.

A handful of municipalities, such as Montreal, Edmonton and Moncton, New Brunswick, also have local bylaws banning plastic grocery bags or single-use plastics.

This patchwork of regulations means national restaurant chains won’t be replacing recyclable or compostable takeout materials anytime soon, according to Restaurant Canada’s director of government relations, Richard Alexander.

Story continues below advertisement

“The industry has been moving in this direction for some time now, even before the ban was introduced,” he said.

“I suspect this court case will have very little impact on that direction. This is heading in that direction. I don’t see the industry going backwards.

As governments and businesses seek to make environmentally friendly decisions, Calvin Lakhan, a waste management researcher at York University, doesn’t predict single-use plastics will return to most regions where they have already been gradually eliminated.

“We’ve spent so much time saying that plastics are bad for the environment and empowering users by saying that if you use reusable, it’s going to be the most sustainable option,” Lakhan said.

“And so I think any sort of movement away from that sends a really bad message to consumers that I think would cause a lot of confusion and discontent.”

Story continues below advertisement

Although Lakhan is skeptical about the return of plastic bags, he agrees in principle with the judge’s decision.

“There is no such thing as a bad or good material. It depends on the context in which you use it,” he said.

“So plastics absolutely have a role to play in a sustainable economy, but they also harm the environment… It’s about finding a balance between opportunities that will allow us to move away from plastics and towards more sustainable alternatives.

&copy 2023 PKBNEWS, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button