Canadian Manufacturing

The Montreal Economic Institute releases statement against federal zero plastic waste policy

The MEI says that there is no guarantee that a ban on plastic shopping bags—like grocery bags—will reduce the country's carbon footprint.

May 12, 2022   by CM Staff

MONTRÉAL — The MEI reports that they published a study 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 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.”

The MEI says that 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, MEI cites that 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.

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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 according to the MEI. They say an estimated 11.2 million tonnes of waste could be prevented.

The MEI suggests 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.