The pace of Canadian regulation of microplastics continues to quicken with the recent announcement of the proposed Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

Completion of 2-Year Review Process

On March 24, 2015, Canada’s House of Commons first voted unanimously to take immediate measures to consider designating plastic microbeads as regulated “toxic” substances under CEPA. A subsequent scientific review determined that microbeads are “entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity.”

On June 23, 2015, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) endorsed Environment Canada’s efforts general goals of eliminating the use of plastic microbeads in consumer products. Notably, the CCME also was recognized that provinces and territories may take additional complementary actions to restrict the use of plastic microbeads – no provincial/territorial actions have yet been taken.

On August 1, 2015, a Notice of Intent was published stating that Environment Canada was initiating the development of proposed regulations under CEPA targeting “personal care products that are used to exfoliate or cleanse and that contain plastic microbeads.”

Staggered Compliance Dates

The proposed Regulations fulfil that intent in prohibiting the manufacture, import, sale or offer for sale of toiletries that contain plastic microbeads, including non-prescription drugs and natural health products. The types of toiletries covered include products used for exfoliating or cleansing such as bath and body products, skin cleansers and toothpaste. (Plastic microbeads include any plastic particle equal to or less than 5 mm in size, which can vary in chemical composition, size, shape and density.)

The prohibitions on microbeads are staggered under the proposed Regulations with prohibitions on the:

  • manufacture and import of toiletries on January 1, 2018,
  • sale or offer for sale of toiletries on July 1, 2018;
  • manufacture/import of non-prescription drugs and natural health products (including toothpaste) on July 1, 2018;
  • sale or offer for sale of non-prescription drugs and natural health products on July 1, 2019.

Accredited Testing Required For Non-Application of Prohibitions

Instead of affected companies using self-assessment measures, the proposal requires microbead presence in products be determined using an accredited laboratory, which has the benefit of imposing uniform laboratory standards to verify compliance with the regulation.

Final Comment Period Ending in January

Any final comments to be made Environment Canada must be submitted by the first week of January 2017.