Canada, and the world, are facing serious social, environmental and economic consequences as a result of plastic pollution.
The federal government—recognizing the hazard posed by plastic pollution—has committed to eliminating plastic waste by 2030. Ninety-five per cent of all manufactured products contain plastic, from single-use items like bags and straws, to everyday items like clothing and toothbrushes. Even more durable items like furniture, toys and vehicles are all made with plastic.
But this comes at a cost. Plastic has an environmental impact across its entire lifecycle. It starts right at the beginning with the extraction and processing of fossil fuels to make plastic, which emit greenhouse gasses and other pollutants and destroy habitats. Toxic chemicals are often emitted when those fossil fuels are manufactured into plastic products. Products also shed plastic particles as we use them. Finally, when we throw these items away, 91 per cent end up in landfills, incinerators or our environment. There are devastating impacts when plastic products end up in the environment, including the entanglement, suffocation, starvation and death of wildlife.
This report examines plastic packaging—the biggest single driver of plastic waste and subject to the broadest range of government policies. We find that Canada will continue to dispose up to 2 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2030 if we continue to rely on recycling and largely failing provincial waste systems to eliminate plastic waste.