Plastic Industry Sues Government to Stop Canada from Reducing Plastic Pollution
Oceana Canada intervenes in a court case on March 7 that could halt progress on tackling plastic pollution in Canada
Press Release Date: March 1, 2023
Toronto, traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples – The fight to regulate plastic pollution continues next week, as Canada’s largest plastic-producing companies – including Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil and NOVA Chemicals, backed by American oil associations and the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan – are taking the federal government to court on March 7, 2023. This group is suing to overturn the designation of plastic-manufactured items as “Toxic” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and prohibit government action against plastic pollution, including the legal basis of the ban on single-use plastics introduced in 2022.
Every year, Canada produces more than four million tonnes of plastic waste, and every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters the global oceans. There is clear evidence that single-use plastics, the most common type of plastic pollution found in the environment, kills wildlife and causes suffering, injury and death to whales, seabirds and other animals; it degrades ecosystems; and moves up our food chain.
The 2021 action by the federal government to designate plastics as Toxic under CEPA was a foundational first step that provides the government the authority to regulate plastic to protect the environment and wildlife. It also allows the federal government to develop bans on the manufacture, import, sale and export of six common single-use plastic items (bags, straws, cutlery, food service ware, stir sticks and six-pack ring carriers). The government’s decision to list plastics as Toxic is backed by strong scientific evidence and the widespread support of Canadians, and is in step with more than 50 other countries that are passing laws to fight plastic pollution.
“While the plastic industry is fighting progress, it is not providing any real solutions to the plastic crisis. They point to recycling as a solution, while knowing full well that less than nine per cent of plastic waste is recycled. Worse, the industry suggests the carcinogen-releasing method of burning plastics as an emerging solution to plastic waste,” said Anthony Merante, Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada. “Now is the time to come forward with real solutions, like providing Canadians alternatives to unnecessary plastic packaging. In the face of a global plastic disaster, continuing to ramp up production of single-use plastic that the industry is not responsible for when it’s found in the oceans is a business model that fills their wallets and fails all of us.”
Recycling alone won’t solve this crisis, and the plastics toxic listing under CEPA is the first time in Canada we have seen meaningful action to stop plastic pollution at the source. Until now, there have been no efforts undertaken by big plastic companies to meaningfully curb plastic waste. EcoJustice, on behalf of Oceana Canada, Environmental Defence and Animal Justice, is acting as an intervenor and fighting the plastic industry in court, defending the government’s decision to list plastic as Toxic under CEPA.
“Lawsuits are another way to delay progress. If business as usual continues, we will continue to pollute our oceans with billions of pieces of plastics, suffocating fish, whales, dolphins, turtles and sea birds,” said Merante. “We need the support from all players, including the plastic industry, to stop plastic pollution.”
A recent survey by Abacus Data for Oceana Canada found that 95 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the impact plastic has on our oceans and more than 90 per cent support a federal ban on unnecessary single-use plastics. In Dec 2022, at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to address plastic pollution and protect biodiversity at home and globally.
“The continued production of single-use plastic is unsustainable and will prohibit Canada from meeting its commitment to zero plastic waste. If the plastic industry wins this lawsuit, we will continue to see whales washing ashore, turtles drowning and more plastics in our food, water and blood,” adds Anthony Merante, Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada.
Find out more about Oceana Canada’s campaign to stop single-use plastic pollution at www.oceana.ca/Plastics.
Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.