• Discussion Paper
  • Oct 11, 2023

Improving Data Collection, Reporting & Transparency Within the Plastics Packaging Value Chain

The Canadian consumer packaged goods industry faces several plastics data gaps and challenges as it strives to achieve reductions in overall packaging waste – plastics and other single-use materials – alongside carbon emission reduction goals. This includes meeting evolving regulatory reporting requirements into extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, expanded deposit return system (DRS) programs, as well as requirements under the federal government’s Zero Plastic Waste Agenda.

Meeting these commitments will require efficient and effective plastics data collection and reporting. However, plastics data collection and reporting are currently a daunting challenge for Canadian industry. Reporting on plastics usage, disposal, and the ensuing environmental impacts is increasingly cost and time-consuming, driving the industry to mitigate risk through the adoption of plastics data reporting best practices. Benchmarking plastics waste management activities and their effectiveness to increase plastics circularity and reduce leakage into the environment against international trends is also a growing challenge.

Additional challenges and barriers include: regional variances in reporting requirements; variances in terms of plastics items in scope; varying levels of data quality; a lack of common data structures to enable scalability and traceability; concerns with data ownership and sensitivity; a lack of sufficient internal or external incentives; concerns with regulatory dissonance; distributed governance, and data collection not linked to strategic business decision-making – and its impact on transitioning the plastics system in Canada.

Although these barriers and challenges at first glance appear distinct and even divergent, they arise from a small number of select root cause issues, notably: business and government drivers for plastics data collection vary considerably and are highly localized; there exists an overall absence of a systems-based approach to plastics data collection and reporting; and, plastics data collection is not structured with a focus on serving strategic outcomes.

It is also important to note that while this Discussion Paper focuses on plastic packaging, many of the data collection and reporting challenges are relevant to a broader suite of areas, including other types of packaging, as well as other material streams in sectors such as construction and consumer goods.

It will be important to convene with industry, governments, and other key stakeholders as a next step to validate the insights in this Discussion Paper and identify important, strategic next steps that will strengthen the data and reporting efforts across Canada’s packaging value chain.