Montréal, May 12, 2022 – The MEI published a study today that found that the federal government’s “zero plastic waste” policy puts it in opposition to current and potential innovations that are coming out of the plastics industry. The policy will hurt the economy without any guarantee of helping the environment.
“The government’s zero plastic waste policy will hurt the Canadian economy and workers and create an uncertain climate for investors, who may choose to put their money elsewhere,” said Gabriel Giguère, public policy analyst at the MEI and author of the study. “And it won’t exactly help the country improve when it comes to private investment; Canada already has the worst record in the OECD.”
“Plastics is an incredibly strategic industry, and growth projections for the use of plastic in manufacturing and the economy more broadly are very positive. It’s an essential material that’s necessary to modern society and is likely to continue increasing in use, perhaps even doubling, by 2050.”
New Life for Plastic: An Alternative Climate Change and Food Waste Reduction Strategy
There is no guarantee that a ban on plastic shopping bags—like grocery bags—will reduce the country’s carbon footprint. In California, for example, a ban on plastic bags did not have the desired effects, as the 40 million tonnes of plastic bag waste eliminated were offset by a 12 million tonne increase in the use of thicker garbage bags, which emit more greenhouse gases.
In Canada, the plastics industry has committed to producing only plastic bags that are fully recyclable and recoverable by 2030. And we can expect further innovations from this industry as well. Modix Plastique, for example, recovers bags and transforms them into hard pellets that are reused to manufacture auto parts or certain kinds of packaging. It’s a technology that helps give plastic bags a new life and reduces the environmental impacts of plastic.
According to Giguère, “Another issue is that in order for certain reusable cotton bags to be less harmful than single‑use plastic bags to human health and ecosystems and use fewer fossil fuels, these cotton bags must be reused between 100 and 3,657 times, equivalent to 2 to 70 years of weekly use.”
Single‑use plastic also helps minimize food waste. An estimated 11.2 million tonnes of waste could be prevented, enough food to feed every Canadian for almost five months. The government should take this into consideration in the elaboration of its zero plastic waste policy, so as not to ban single-use plastics that are contributing to the reduction of food waste.
The federal government should consider the following solutions, which would contribute to the reduction of plastic waste without penalizing industry stakeholders and Canadian consumers:
- Remove the “plastic manufactured items” label from Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and end the ban on the six single‑use plastic products currently covered by the federal policy.
- Stimulate innovation using tax cuts or credits, not subsidies, to encourage the implementation of new or proven technologies and increase recycling rates.
* * *
The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and free advisory services offered equally to all policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on established principles of market economics and entrepreneurship.
Josée Morissette, Senior Advisor, Media Relations