Proposed regulations banning single-use plastics: Impact on businesses 

February, 2022 - Chloé Fauchon, William Bolduc

On December 25, 2021, the federal government passed proposed regulations that, as the name implies, prohibit (or restrict, in some cases) the manufacture, import and sale of certain single-use plastics that pose a threat to the environment. Provided that such regulations are adopted, the government intends for them to come into force as early as the end of 2022.1


Manufacturing, importing and selling certain single-use plastic products, such as food containers, shopping bags and straws, will be soon be prohibited.


This regulation is expected to affect more than 250,000 Canadian businesses that sell or provide single-use plastic products, primarily in the retail, food service, hospitality and healthcare industries.


The following is a comprehensive list of items that will be prohibited:


  1. Single-use plastic ring carriers designed for beverage containers and cut to form carriers for multiple containers
  2. Single-use plastic stir sticks designed to stir or mix beverages or to prevent liquid from spilling from the lid of its container
  3. Single-use plastic foodservice ware (a) designed in the form of a clamshell container, lidded container, box, cup, plate or bowl, (b) designed to serve or transport ready-to-eat food or beverages without further preparation, and (c) made from certain materials2
  4. Single-use plastic checkout bags that are designed to carry items purchased from a business and that (a) are made from plastic film, (b) break or tear if used to carry 10 kg over 53 m 100 times, or (c) break or tear if washed in a washing machine3
  5. Single-use plastic cutlery in the shape of a fork, knife, spoon, spork or chopstick that does not retain its shape when immersed in water maintained at 82°C to 86°C for 15 minutes4
  6. Single-use plastic straws that do not retain their shape when immersed in water maintained at 82°C to 86°C for 15 minutes5

Exceptions

  1. Single-use flexible plastic straws

    Single-use flexible plastic straws, i.e. those with a corrugated section that allows the straw to bend and maintain its position at various angles,6 may be manufactured and imported.7


    These flexible straws may also be sold in any of the following circumstances: 


    • The sale does not take place in a commercial, industrial, or institutional setting.[8] This exception means that individuals can sell these flexible straws.
    • The sale is between businesses in packages of at least 20 straws.8
    • The sale is made by a retail store of a package of 20 or more straws to a customer who requests it without the package being displayed in a manner that permits the customer to view it before purchase.10
    • The sale is between a care facility, such as a hospital or long-term care facility, and its patients or residents.11
  2. The export of single-use plastic items -

    All the manufactured single-use plastic items listed above may be manufactured, imported or sold for export.12


    That said, any person who manufactures or imports such items for export will be required to keep a record of certain information and documents as appropriate for each type of plastic manufactured item.13 Records of the information and documents will have to be kept for at least five years in Canada.14


Conclusion: an opportunity to rethink common practices

In the short term, businesses will need to start thinking about how they will replace the plastic manufactured items they use.


To help businesses select alternatives to single-use plastic items, the federal government has released its Guidance for selecting alternatives to the single-use plastics in the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations.15


According to this document, the aim should be to reduce plastics.  Businesses may begin by considering whether a single-use plastic should be replaced or no longer provided. Only products that perform essential functions should be replaced with non-plastic equivalents. Stir sticks and straws can be eliminated most of the time.


Another way to reduce waste is to opt for reusable products and packaging. Businesses are invited to rethink their products and services to provide reusable options. Reusable container programs (i.e. offering customers the option of using their own reusable containers) are a reuse option that businesses may want to consider, in particular to reduce the amount of plastic food containers.


Only where reusable products are not feasible should businesses substitute a single-use plastic product with a recyclable single-use alternative. Businesses in this situation are encouraged to contact local recycling facilities to ensure that they can successfully recycle products at their end of life. Ultimately, charging consumers for certain single-use substitutes (e.g. single-use wooden or moulded fibre cutlery) may also discourage their use.


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  1. Environment and Climate Change Canada, ?Government of Canada moving forward with banning harmful single-use plastics,? News release, December 21, 2021, Ottawa, Ontario. Read it here: Government of Canada moving forward with banning harmful single-use plastics ? Canada.ca
  2. Polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, plastic containing a black pigment produced by the partial or incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons or plastic containing any additive which, through oxidation, leads to the fragmentation of the plastic into micro-fragments or to chemical decomposition (section 1)
  3. If washed in a washing machine in a wash cycle recommended by the manufacturer for washing cotton or linen (section 1)
  4. Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, para. 4(1) and 4(2)
  5. Section 1
  6. Supra, note 2, s. 1, sub verbo ?single-use flexible plastic straws?
  7. Ibid, para. 3(2)
  8. Ibid, para. 3(3)
  9. Ibid, para. 3(4)
  10. Ibid, para. 3(5) According to the Guidance for selecting alternatives to the single-use plastics in the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, the goal is to ensure that people with disabilities who need flexible single-use plastic straws continue to have access to them at home and can carry them to restaurants and other premises.
  11. Ibid, para. 3(6)
  12. Ibid., s. 2
  13. Ibid., s. 6
  14. Ibid, para. 7(1)
  15. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/consultations/proposed-single-use-plastics-prohibition-regulations-consultation-document.htmll

 



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