Sarah Brooks, Senior Associate, The Natural Step Canada
April 10, 2019
Plastic waste is a major issue. From the great Pacific garbage patch to animals injured by eating or being caught in plastics, images of the damage caused by plastic waste abound. In Canada, less than 12% of plastics are recycled. We now face an innovation challenge: How do we transform how we make, use and dispose of plastics, to ensure this valuable resource remains in the economy and out of the environment?
In response to this question, the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition (CELC)
has begun engaging key Canadian stakeholders on the potential to reduce plastic waste via a Canada Plastics Pact (CPP) This would be a platform for Canadian businesses to collaborate and commit to actions toward a circular plastics economy and a zero waste future.
Plastics pacts are gaining momentum globally as a way to accelerate the transition to a circular plastics economy. A circular plastics economy
is one in which plastic never becomes waste: problematic plastics are eliminated; plastics we do need are innovated to ensure they are reusable, recyclable or compostable; and plastics are circulated continuously to ensure they are kept in the economy and out of the environment. It’s part of a larger move toward a full circular economy.
Plastics pacts bring together key stakeholders at the national or regional level to implement solutions towards a circular economy for plastics. They are led by a local organisation and unite governments, businesses, and citizens behind the common vision with a concrete set of ambitious local targets. They are generally aligned under the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Today there are plastics pacts in the UK,France
and the Netherlands, with several more countries – including Canada – in the exploratory phase.
To lay the foundations for the potential establishment of a CPP, the CELC undertook a series of rapid research, engagement and outreach activities from January to March 2019. This included two business acceleration workshops bringing together a total of 101 mostly private-sector stakeholders to explore the potential establishment of a CPP. Leaders from across industries came together in both Vancouver and Toronto in full-day workshops. They drew on their experiences and expertise, providing diverse perspectives from across sectors to inform the potential development of a CPP.
Here are some of the key messages that emerged from those sessions.
1. A Canada Plastics Pact has the potential to rapidly and effectively shift Canada toward a zero plastics waste future. In so doing, it can drive innovation and collaboration opportunities for signatories.
2. Likely areas of focus of a CPP include
a. Elimination of problematic and unnecessary single-use packaging
b. Designing for products to be reusable, recyclable and compostable
c. Increasing the level of reuse, recycling, composting and, possibly, recovery
d. Increasing average recycled content in packaging
3. To truly drive change and capture value, the level of ambition in potential target areas above must be very ambitious.
4. To be relevant for Canada, our plastics pact must enable cross-sectoral collaboration
to develop and implement a realistic roadmap with specific milestones and targets. It must deliver a harmonized vision and approach
by communicating full value-chain alignment on strategy, targets and policy. Metrics and reporting
must provide clear and transparent data to measure success. It must drive innovation
by leveraging industry experts (e.g. petrochemicals) to establish a Canadian-based manufacturing industry where knowledge-sharing clarifies the full utility of plastics, and facilities are designed to process these Canadian-made materials into valuable outputs. And, it must enable system
change focused on behaviour to make it easy for consumers to participate in the circular system through the purchase and disposal of plastics.
Sounds exciting? It does to us! To follow this discussion or to get involved, sign up for our newsletter and be a part of this evolution.