The federal government will appeal a recent Federal Court decision that struck down a Cabinet decree underlying Ottawa’s ban on certain single-use plastics, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday.
The Nov. 16 ruling said Ottawa overstepped the mark by labeling all “items made of plastic” as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Evidence shows that “thousands” of different items in this category have different uses and chemical compositions, and there is no evidence that they all can harm human health or the environment, found Judge Angela Furlanetto.
The decision itself did not overturn the government’s ban on the manufacture and importation of six single-use plastics: stir sticks, straws, grocery bags, cutlery, takeaway containers and packs of six drink rings.
However, the toxicity designation is necessary for the government to regulate the substances. Without it, federal regulations would have to be repealed.
Guilbeault said he is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“The body of scientific evidence showing the impacts of plastic pollution on human health and the environment is indisputable,” he said.
The government has taken steps to eliminate plastic waste by 2030, aiming to completely remove hard-to-recycle items, while ensuring the rest is recyclable or reusable.
The current ban on manufacturing the most affected items came into effect in December 2022, and there are plans to ban their sale next month. The manufacture of six-pack rings was banned in June, with their sale expected to be banned in June 2024.
The legal challenge was brought by the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition, which represents plastic companies doing business in Canada, and three chemical companies that produce these materials.
The coalition said it “supported” the judge’s decision.
“For the sake of Canadians who rely on plastic products essential to daily life, we believe the federal government and industry can work collaboratively to reduce plastic waste,” he said in a statement.
Some municipalities and provinces have implemented their own plastic bans, including Prince Edward Island and British Columbia. Provincial policies are not affected by the decision.
Furlanetto’s decision left room for the government to ban only the items it wants by designating individual items as toxic, rather than manufactured plastic items as a whole.
The government chose to ban these six products, Guilbeault said, because they already have alternatives on the market and are among the most widespread. They generally represent only 3% of plastic waste.
In 2019, a Canadian plastics report indicated that more than three million tonnes of plastic are thrown away each year and less than a tenth is actually recycled.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 20, 2023.