Canada outlines ban on six categories of single-use plastics

On June 22, 2022, the Government of Canada published the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations (the “Regulations”), which are made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA 1999”). The Regulations prohibit the manufacture, import, sale and export of six categories of single-use plastic (“SUP”) items, and impose record keeping requirements on manufacturers, exporters and importers of SUPs. The Regulations contain an important departure from the proposed regulations, which were initially published on December 25, 2021. The proposed regulations provided an exemption for the manufacture, import and sale for the purposes of export of the applicable SUP items, however, this exemption was ultimately not included in the Regulations.

The Regulations form part of the Government of Canada's Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, which follows earlier announcements of its intention to ban SUPs. We provided additional information on this development in the post published here.

Single-use plastics that will be banned

The six categories of SUPs that will be banned are:

  • Checkout bags: This category includes plastic bags given to customers at the retail point of sale to carry purchased goods from a business. It also includes fabric bags that will break or tear if (a) used 100 times to carry 10 kilograms over a distance of 53 meters, or (b) washed in a standard washing machine.
  • Cutlery: This category includes forks, knives, spoons, sporks and chopsticks. These items will be banned if their physical properties change after being washed in a household dishwasher 100 times.
  • Foodservice ware: This category includes clamshell containers, lidded containers, cartons, cups, plates and bowls used for serving or transporting prepared food or beverages that are made entirely or partially from extruded or expanded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, oxo-degradable plastics, or plastics that contain the additive “carbon black”.
  • Ring carriers: This category includes deformable bands that are placed on beverage containers (e.g., cans, bottles) to package them for transport.
  • Stir sticks: This category includes items made entirely or partially from plastic that are designed to stir or mix beverages or to prevent a beverage from spilling from the lid of its container.
  • Straws: This category includes plastic straws. Subject to the exceptions described below, plastic straws are banned if their physical properties change after being washed in a household dishwasher 100 times.

Coming into force provisions

  • For check-out bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, and straws, the prohibitions in the Regulations relating to the following activities come into force on the dates set out below:

○ Manufacture and import for sale in Canada – December 20, 2022

○ Sale in Canada – December 20, 2023

○ Manufacture, import and export sales – December 20, 2025

  • For ring carriers, the prohibitions in the Regulations relating to the following activities come into force on the dates set out below:

○ Manufacture and import for sale in Canada – June 20, 2023

○ Sale in Canada – June 20, 2024

○ Manufacture, import and export sales – December 20, 2025

  • For flexible straws packaged with a beverage container, the prohibitions in the Regulations relating to the following activities come into force on the dates set out below:

○ Sale in Canada – June 20, 2024

○ Manufacture, import and export sales – December 20, 2025

Certain exemptions

The Regulations contain certain exemptions with respect to flexible plastic straws. Among other things, these exemptions permit: (a) B2B sales of flexible plastic straws in packages of 20 or more; (b) retail sales of 20 or more plastic straws when the package is not displayed and the customer requests the straws; (c) retail sales of flexible plastic straws that are packaged together with beverages, where the retail location did not package the straw and beverage; and (d) the sale of flexible straws in medical and other care facilities.

Enforcement

The Regulations are made under CEPA 1999, meaning that enforcement will be carried out in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for CEPA, 1999 and any contraventions of the Regulations will be subject to the fine regime under the Environmental Enforcement Act (consequential amendments have been made to the Regulations Designating Regulatory Provisions for Purposes of Enforcement (Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999), which require that designated offences involving direct harm, risk of harm to the environment, or obstruction of authority will be subject to increased fines if a person or corporation is convicted for any of these offences). Verification of compliance with the Regulations will include site visits, review of records, reusable product testing (if applicable), and review of written transit documents. Following an inspection or an investigation, if an enforcement officer discovers an alleged violation, the appropriate enforcement action will be chosen based on the factors set out in the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for CEPA, 1999.