Canada open to putting more limits on exports of plastic waste: McKenna

Canada pointed to Australia, New Zealand and Japan as countries with similar policies

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she has asked her department to look at what else Canada can do to reduce the amount of Canadian garbage that is ending up overseas.

As recently as Aug. 1, McKenna’s officials dismissed the idea of banning plastic waste exports entirely, fearing such a move could be economically harmful to countries with recycling industries that rely on the material.

Canada pointed to Australia, New Zealand and Japan as countries with similar policies.

But last week, Australia’s federal and state governments came together to start planning for an eventual ban of plastic waste exports.

McKenna says Canada has already taken steps to cut down on plastic waste, including a planned ban on most single-use plastics like straws and take-out containers within the next two years, and requiring producers to take more responsibility for ensuring the material is recovered and either recycled or reused.

She says there is also room for Canada to show leadership on exports and is “pushing” her department to figure out how.

“We need to look at what more we could do,” she said.

READ MORE: Calls to eat more plants, less meat also in line with Canada’s food guide, says McKenna

Canada has very limited ability to recycle plastics and has for decades relied on foreign nations, mostly China, to take its plastic waste. China, however, banned most plastic waste imports in 2018 because it was getting too much additional material that couldn’t be recycled.

As a result, much of the ensuing volume has been shifted away from wealthy nations to places like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where governments — now facing a deluge of material both legal and illegal — are contemplating bans of their own.

Many waste experts and environment advocates want Canada to simply stop exporting plastic waste entirely. In 2016, Canada did change its regulations to require permits whenever plastic garbage is exported to countries that see it as hazardous waste.

That move came after fruitless efforts to sanction a now-defunct Canadian company that shipped more than 100 containers full of garbage, falsely labelled as plastics for recycling, to the Philippines — a diplomatic dustup that ended only after Canada agreed to spend $1.14 million to ship what was left of the waste back to Vancouver.

That regulatory change hasn’t stopped unwanted Canadian plastic garbage from arriving in foreign nations, however. No permits have been requested or issued since 2016, but in the last few months both Malaysia and Cambodia have reported finding containers of Canadian plastic garbage in their ports.

Environment Canada is investigating those claims.

Kathleen Ruff, founder of the online advocacy campaign RightonCanada.ca, wants Canada to agree to stop shipping plastic waste out of the country. She has been critical of the federal Liberals for refusing to agree to amend the Basel Convention to stop plastic waste exports. The convention is an international agreement to prevent the world’s wealthiest nations from dumping hazardous waste on the developing world.

Ruff said she was happy to hear McKenna say there was room to do more — and suspects the Oct. 21 federal election may have something to do with it.

Indeed, the Philippines fiasco prompted a spike in public interest in plastic trash, prompting all the major parties to put it on the agenda: the Conservatives say they would ban any plastic waste exports unless the importing country can prove it will be recycled, while the NDP wants to ban exports entirely, as well as the production and use of disposable plastics by 2022.

The Green party, meanwhile, would phase out the use of landfills for unsorted waste, and impose a system to ensure all electronic waste is recycled.

Canadians are among the biggest producers of waste in the world, churning out as much as two kilograms per person every day.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

County of Stettler is unsure of Buffalo Lake RV Resort developers’ intentions or ownership

Leaseholders allege Buffalo Lake RV Resort development has possibly gone into foreclosure

Stettler authors continue to break new creative ground

Donna Hoopfer’s latest title, illustrated by her sister Joanne Hoopfer, was released earlier this year

PHOTOS: Flooding hits town on the afternoon of July 7th

Severe afternoon rain sent some folks out to explore in ‘creative’ ways

Stettler Town & Country Museum almost back to full hours

Some buildings are closed due to ongoing hail damage repairs

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Racist slurs during Conservative leadership debate not surprising: Lewis

Racist slurs during Conservative leadership debate not surprising: Lewis

‘These kind of issues are out here’: New doc examines police violence in Calgary

‘These kind of issues are out here’: New doc examines police violence in Calgary

‘Vowed myself to silence:’ Woman says she couldn’t cope after Edmonton attack

‘Vowed myself to silence:’ Woman says she couldn’t cope after Edmonton attack

Alberta politicians swap charges of bullying, misogyny after member ejected

Alberta politicians swap charges of bullying, misogyny after member ejected

Police chiefs call for decriminalization of personal drug use

Police chiefs call for decriminalization of personal drug use

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

Most Read