On April 18, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) announced the initiation of consultations on its proposed regulatory framework for the Recycled Content and Labelling for Plastic Products Regulations as well the proposed reporting requirements for a federal plastics registry. These consultations will run until May 18, 2023.
Both these initiatives are in support of the Government of Canada’s goal of zero plastic waste. In 2018, only 8 percent of plastic waste was recycled, with the vast majority ending up in landfills. The Canadian government is seeking to implement a ‘circular economy’ for plastics that reduces plastic and carbon pollution, and believes this could create billions of dollars in revenue and create 42,000 jobs by 2030. The government is targeting plastic packaging and single-use plastics (SUPs) in particular as they form a significant part of the Canadian plastics economy, making up over 35% of all plastics placed on the market in 2018. They also make up over 50% of all plastic waste generated in Canada, but less than 14% are recycled. Additionally, the vast majority of plastic packaging and SUPs end up in landfills after only one use.
The Regulatory Framework Paper for the Recycled Content and Labelling for Plastic Products Regulations outlines the government’s proposed regulatory framework for plastic packaging and certain SUPs, which includes recycled content requirements and labelling rules for recyclability and compostability. Some key aspects of the framework include:
- The level of recycled content that is required to be used in plastic packaging products;
- Allowable and prohibited recyclability and compostability claims for plastics;
- The introduction of three unique ‘chasing arrows’ recyclability logos and when they are to be used, as well as a requirement for regulated parties to include QR codes that would direct consumers to webpages that provide more information on an item’s recyclability; and
- Phased timelines for implementation of the new rules set out in the framework.
The Regulatory Framework Paper incorporates industry feedback provided on the initial consultation paper released by ECCC in July 2022, in respect of the recyclability and compostability of plastics. That feedback, which is summarized by ECCC here, included comments on ensuring alignment with the extended producer responsibility regimes that are being deployed across Canada, and encouraged both a gradual approach and one that sought alignment with other jurisdictions such as the U.S. and E.U. Some of these comments are reflected in the Regulatory Framework Paper, such as adjustments to how a plastic product is deemed to be recyclable. However, businesses that are impacted by the changes set out in the Regulatory Framework Paper may find that significant issues remain. These issues may be particularly cogent for businesses with multinational supply chains and for whom these regulations may require Canada-specific labelling and/or plastic products.
In addition to the Regulatory Framework Paper, the consultations by ECCC also cover the possible creation of a federal plastics registry. The goal of this registry would be to produce consistent data nationally on end-of-life management of products and packaging. The proposal, which is outlined in a Technical Paper, would require producers to report data on all major categories of plastic products, covering the majority of all plastics placed on the Canadian market. The Technical Paper provides details on the categories of plastics covered and what data points will need to be provided. There is also significant discussion in the technical paper on the where the obligations related to the registry would fall, primarily proposed to fall on the producer or Canadian importer of the plastic item. There is some discussion on how to minimize the administrative burden on small businesses, however it does not appear that there is any complete exemption for any business, small or large, that brings a plastic item into the Canadian market.
As noted above, the consultation period is quite limited, ending on May 18, 2023. Given the complexity and technical nature of the subject matters covered in the Regulatory Framework Paper for the Recycled Content and Labelling for Plastic Products Regulations and the Technical Paper on the federal plastics registry, it may be difficult for impacted businesses to produce the comprehensive commentary that may be required in that timeframe. While ECCC could respond to requests to extend the deadline for consultations, and we encourage impacted businesses to act quickly, either directly or through industry associations or their counsel, to prepare their commentary on these matters. The proposed regime may have material and significant impacts on cross-border product manufacturing, labelling, marketing, and distribution throughout supply chains.