Group to challenge feds labeling plastic as ‘toxic’

The Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC) is pursuing legal action against the federal government.

On May 12 the Canadian government added all “plastic manufactured items” to Schedule 1, the List of Toxic Substances of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This decision is not supported by available science and will have far reaching and unintended consequences, including those beyond our borders.

“As one of the largest food packaging companies in Canada, we are extremely concerned about the government’s efforts to declare all plastic manufactured items as toxic,” says Stephen Emmerson, president and CEO, Emmerson Packaging .

“Our products are designed to keep food and water safe and fresh. Canadians rely on products like ours to sustain everyday life. Designating these products as toxic is not based on science and will have significant impacts on businesses large and small across the country, including Atlantic Canada. Implying that plastic is not safe for food or our water supply is not only dangerous but completely misleading.”

Legal challenge

As a result, industry leaders from across Canada have come together to take action to challenge this legislative action by the Government, while continuing to encourage the federal government to implement science-based innovative solutions that will combat plastic waste – such as enhancing collection infrastructure and investing in advanced recycling.

In support of these actions RPUC has filed a Notice of Application in the Federal Court of Canada challenging the order adding all plastic manufactured items to the List of Toxic Substances.

“Plastic materials have great virtue and continue to demonstrate just how essential they are to society. Canadians deserve a responsible and effective response to the problem of waste in Canada,” says Luis Sierra, president and CEO, NOVA Chemicals.

“That response must be based on fundamental science and built upon the decades of plastic research and use. Labeling plastic as toxic is not the solution to a sustainable, circular economy that ends plastic waste. There are far more beneficial solutions to divert waste from our natural environment and we stand ready to work with the government and all stakeholders to build a comprehensive circular economy for plastics in Canada.”

A “significant overreach”

Plastic is not toxic. Declaring plastic manufactured items “toxic” is a significant overreach by the federal government and will have unnecessary and unintended consequences, including:

  • Increasing cost and confusion for consumers and small businesses;
  • Reducing investment and innovation along the plastics value chain due to uncertainty and changing regulations;
  • Creating regulatory uncertainty around which additional items could eventually be banned;
  • Resulting in negative environmental outcomes by promoting alternatives to plastics which have greater environmental footprints;
  • Making it more difficult to create a circular economy for plastic (a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources); and,
  • Preventing new and innovative recycling pathways for plastic.

It is simply wrong to list all plastic manufactured items as toxic. The federal government’s approach does not recognize that most plastic manufactured items are considered to be safe and comply with national and international standards, and in the case of plastics used for food packaging, are required to comply with federal government regulations ensuring that they are safe for use.

“Our company employs over 300 hard-working Canadians,” says Ricardo Cardoso, COO, Malpack Ltd.

“With this policy, the government is carelessly attaching a  toxic label to our business – ignoring the fact that our films are the most environmentally friendly products available to safely transport goods across the country. We need policy based in science, not politics.”

The challenge we face is not that plastic is toxic, but rather the challenge of post-consumer plastic in the environment resulting from human behaviour and systemic waste management and recycling shortfalls.

RPUC is closely monitoring the federal government’s actions on this matter. RPUC will continue to provide updates as developments regarding its legal action against the federal government proceed.

The Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC) was formed in response to the Canadian government’s attempt to designate all plastic manufactured items as toxic. RPUC has a shared belief in a responsible and effective policy approach to tackling plastic waste.

RPUC member companies represent the entire plastics value chain – including recyclers, manufacturers, distributors of plastic manufactured items. Our member companies are responsible for creating the products that sustain Canadian life – including medical equipment, food packaging, and materials for safe drinking water.

RPUC and its members believes there are far more impactful policy solutions to divert waste from our natural environment, including building a comprehensive circular economy system in Canada.