moved that Bill C-204, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, every week, millions of Canadians diligently sort and place their plastic in the blue boxes for municipal curbside collection. We do this to reduce our waste and to ensure that our plastic can be recycled and reused in some other meaningful fashion. However, despite our best intentions, and to the surprise of most, only 9% of plastics Canadians put in their blue boxes ever actually gets recycled domestically. Most of the rest is exported, piled up in a landfill, dumped in the ocean, burned or otherwise discarded into the environment. Because of this, our plastic is ultimately ending up in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. This is having a considerable impact on our health and the health of the environment. If not addressed, it threatens our future.
The proposed legislation before us today, Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, seeks to address these serious concerns by prohibiting plastic waste intended for final disposal from being exported to foreign countries.
For too long, Canada has been sending its plastic waste for other countries to deal with. Of the 380,000 tonnes of plastic waste collected in Canada in 2018, more than one-quarter was exported to foreign countries for processing. Between 2015 and 2018, almost 400,000 tonnes of plastic waste was sent to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, China and the United States. Unfortunately, many of these countries lack the capability and regulatory waste management standards to ensure that plastic is properly disposed of. As a result, these plastics are all too often landfilled, illegally dumped or incinerated, allowing them to enter and negatively impact the environment.
In late 2017, China, which had for a long time been the primary market for plastic waste from Canada and other countries, adopted much higher standards for imported recyclables. After handling nearly half of the world's recyclable waste for over 25 years, China effectively banned the practice, resulting in Canada and other western nations turning to developing countries in southeast Asia and elsewhere to handle their plastics. It is common practice for certain businesses in these developing countries to import plastics for the purpose of recycling, only to dump them in a landfill or incinerate them. This is more likely to occur when plastics are poorly sorted, mislabelled or otherwise contaminated, making them more difficult to recycle properly.
The direct and indirect effect this is having on the environment is a serious concern. When plastics are dumped in unmanaged landfills, the waste leaks into the natural environment. The incineration of plastic waste also contributes to a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions and may result in the emission of toxins that threaten both humans and environmental life. Investigations into the export of plastic waste to developing countries have found that this sort of mismanagement is all too common with few controls to ensure that the imported plastic is being handled appropriately.
In September 2019, CBC Marketplace highlighted the conditions of the small northern Malaysia village of Ipoh, which had become a primary destination for the processing of Canadian plastic waste. The report describes towering heaps of burning plastic garbage, chemical and microplastic runoff polluting local waterways, and mounds of poorly contained Canadian plastic. The residents of Ipoh were outraged by the invasion of foreign plastic waste and the impact it was having on their health and the local environment. Pleading, they said, “We don't want to be the next cancer village.” This is just one example of a situation that is becoming all too common.
Many developing countries are now rejecting plastic imports from abroad, having struggled to properly manage the sheer quantity of plastics coming from around the world since China's ban took effect.
The substantial increase in plastic waste to these developing countries is having a devastating impact on their environment and the population. Most Canadians were alerted to this pressing issue last year when, after prolonged diplomatic dispute, Canada repatriated thousands of tonnes of non-recyclable waste from the Philippines and Malaysia at a significant cost to taxpayers.
Canada’s plastic waste is not a problem that can be simply exported away. Many of the countries receiving our plastic are developing nations incapable of managing it to ensure that its impact is reduced and the environment protected. This does not only affect the environment and citizens of these countries. Eventually, the impact of plastic, as it breaks down, also leads to serious ramifications for the health of Canadians and Canada’s natural environment.
Canada is an industrialized nation with capabilities far beyond those of the developing world. We must put an end to the practice of exporting plastic waste to foreign countries.
Canada has signed a number of international agreements pertaining to the import and export of waste. The foremost agreement concerning the movement of waste is the Basel Convention. As of last year, the Basel Convention has been updated to specifically include the transboundary movement of plastic waste, which was not part of the original terms of the agreement. This change was made in direct response to the rapidly increasing levels of plastic waste around the world and its known impacts on human health and the environment.
The Basel Convention was also amended in September 2019 to outright ban the export of plastic waste for final disposal from industrialized countries to developing countries. No participating country is beholden to this amendment unless they elect to ratify and accept it. Canada has not. It is unfortunate that under the current Liberal government, Canada has failed to show leadership on the issue of plastic waste.
It was not until two days ago that the Liberals finally accepted the amendment to the convention to include plastic waste, a year and a half after the amendment was made and only after 186 other countries had already agreed to it.
While I am pleased to see that Bill C-204 has already made a difference even before it was debated, it is clear that more still needs to be done. It is particularly concerning that the Liberals are still refusing to act to limit the export of plastic waste. In fact, the Liberal government has stated that the practice of exporting waste from Canada to developing countries for final disposal is beneficial. This is an outrageous position to take, given the significant negative impact plastic waste has on developing countries and on the environment.
Last year, even the Liberal dominated Standing Committee on the Environment recommended that Canada prohibit the export of plastic waste to be landfilled in a foreign country. The government did not respond. Clearly Canada needs to step up and that is exactly what Bill C-204 proposes to do.
Bill C-204 would put an end to Canada's practice of exporting plastic waste to other countries through a modest amendment to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This is achieved by explicitly prohibiting the export of plastic waste to foreign countries for final disposal, something that is still currently permitted under the existing regulation.
The definition of plastic waste outlined in the accompanying schedule is derived straight from the Basel Convention annexes. Likewise, final disposal is a specifically defined term, meaning operations that do not lead to the possibility of resource recovery, recycling, reclamation or alternative reuse. This ensures that legitimate, sustainable and environmentally sound exports of plastic waste are not prohibited.
Finally, Bill C-204 would bring these changes in line with the rest of the regulations in this section of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, giving the minister the ability to add or remove plastics from the prohibited list and applies fines and penalties against those who contravene it. Through these reasonable changes, the export of plastic waste for final disposal from Canada to other countries will finally be prohibited.
While other countries are taking action on the issue of exporting plastic waste, Canada is falling behind. Comparative nations are implementing stricter domestic laws to control the export of plastic waste, just as Bill C-204 proposes.
In Australia, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 has been introduced in parliament by its government, which will phase in the end of the 645,000 tonnes of plastic and other waste that Australia ships overseas each year. The Government of the United Kingdom has made a similar commitment, pledging to ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and impose tighter restrictions on all outgoing waste.
This is in addition to the other 98 countries that have already ratified the Basel ban amendment to prohibit the export of waste to developing countries.
However, even as Canada falls behind while other governments and jurisdictions around the world are taking action, there is hope. Canadian industry and small businesses are stepping up to address the issue of plastic waste.
One of these companies is Cielo Waste Solutions, based out of Aldersyde, Alberta. Cielo uses a unique advanced refining process to take all types of plastic and convert it into renewable diesel fuel. This innovative process significantly reduces Canada's plastic and landfill waste and lowers our country's reliance on imported diesel. The company aims to build over 40 refineries across Canada and would convert over 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste a day into renewable fuel, diverting over one million tonnes of waste from landfills and foreign exports per year.
Another innovative company is Goodwood Plastic, out of Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. Goodwood Plastic takes post-consumer plastic waste, including plastic bags and old fishing line, and turns it into tough, flexible and long-lasting lumber. Their products could replace the wood that we use in posts, in guard rails, even in small craft harbour docks and countless other uses, all while reducing plastic waste.
Both of these companies and many others across Canada want to use their products to make a difference. Instead of Canada exporting its waste to foreign countries, where it will be mismanaged, we should be leveraging this kind of innovation and making a difference right here at home.
It is time for Canada to stop treating the rest of the world as its dumping ground for plastic waste. Canadians from coast to coast to coast expect action on this issue. They overwhelmingly support a ban on exporting plastic waste. The Liberal government can no longer keep justifying this shameful practice, a practice that so many other industrialized countries have already put to an end. Today, developing countries are being inundated with Canada's plastic waste, waste that is being mismanaged with dramatic implications for our environment.
Domestically, Canadian industry is in a position to step up and develop made-in-Canada solutions to manage our plastic waste. Our country needs to get behind them and support their efforts, instead of simply dumping our plastic in someone else's backyard. I urge all members of Parliament to support Bill C-204. Canada must take some responsibility, show leadership on the world stage and ban the export of plastic waste for final disposal to foreign countries. The time is now.