An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste)

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Scot Davidson  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of April 13, 2021

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to prohibit the export of certain types of plastic waste to foreign countries for final disposal.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 3, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-204, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste)

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 13th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, entitled “The Road Ahead: Encouraging the Production and Purchase of Zero-Emission Vehicles in Canada”.

This study, which is extremely relevant in today's context where we are making the transition to a greener economy, was proposed by the member for Repentigny.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

I would also like to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste). The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I add to some of my earlier comments. I will do a very quick review.

Bill C-204 was introduced by the member for York—Simcoe. Given the summary of the bill, one could be somewhat skeptical of it, especially since it is coming from a member of the Conservative caucus. I do not know if the Conservatives had a discussion about this issue, especially the members who were sitting in government in 2010 to 2014, because the bill attempts to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to prohibit the export of certain types of plastic to foreign countries for final disposal.

The reason I started off this way is that a few years ago there was a huge issue in the Philippines. When Stephen Harper was the prime minister, there was a company that shipped all sorts of plastics, which it claimed to be garbage, to the Philippines. When the containers were opened, the waste did not have much to do with the recycling of plastics; there was just a lot of garbage. That is what it was. There were used diapers, and it was an actual mess when they unsealed the containers, with odours coming out. It became a diplomatic issue for us.

We can learn something from this: We need to recognize that it is not appropriate for Canada to be shipping garbage around the world to different places without proper checks in place. In certain situations, it should not happen at all, period.

In 2016, I believe, reflecting on the garbage or recycled plastics that were shipped under the Harper regime, we strengthened some of the guidelines to prevent those sorts of things from happening in the future. Diplomatically, it was raised at a fairly high level, and President Duterte indicated that he had serious concerns about the waste and wanted it out of the Philippines. Fortunately, we were able to find a place for the garbage and got rid of it here in Canada at a facility, where it was burned.

The point is that we recognize the need to look at environmental issues. When we look at specifics, the government already has a fairly comprehensive agenda to tackle the issue of plastic waste. This includes strengthening controls on plastic waste exports under the Basel Convention, for the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste and recyclable materials. This is the type of agreement that governments around the world need to look at, support and then follow, because it is a great way to ensure that controls are not just between one, two or three countries, but widely accepted around the world.

Canada does play and has played a leadership role in recent negotiations for amendments. These amendments would reduce exports of non-recyclable, hazardous plastic waste to countries unable to manage them in an environmentally sound way. What I really like is the fact that as we continue to go forward and talk about this, especially but not exclusively with young people, we find that the environment is a huge issue. People have many different ideas.

As a government, we have been moving forward on this file in significant ways. I could talk about the emissions legislation to get to net zero by 2050. I could talk about the two billion trees we are committing to plant. Also, back in October, we indicated we would be banning plastics, in particular six items: plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and hard-to-recycle takeout containers.

I think the government has demonstrated its interest in moving aggressively and progressively on issues facing the environment, and we have to take into consideration plastics if we are going to deal with them. We are committed to doing this and have been working on it now for a number of years.

At the end of the day, as we continue this debate, members should feel comfortable in knowing they have a government that is progressive on the issue of plastics and our environment. We will continue to move Canada forward on this issue.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to speak in the House in order to share what I believe is necessary to truly fight climate change, reduce greenhouse gases and protect the environment.

I thank my colleague from York—Simcoe for his work on the environment. In a way it is reassuring to see members of the Conservative Party truly concerned about the environment.

That being said, we see that, like his party, Bill C-204 is somewhat ineffectual. In fact, it shows that, regrettably, the Conservative Party does not want to stick its neck out when it comes to the environment, likely to not upset their base in western Canada.

The points I want to raise in this intervention show that the transition to green energy is not only essential, but may provide an extraordinary opportunity to create wealth and jobs. It is something to keep in mind for our friends in western Canada for whom the federal government would do well to do everything it can to protect thousands of jobs by steering them to a low-carbon economy.

Make no mistake: This bill is very important. Of course the Bloc Québécois supports a bill that prohibits the export of plastic waste for final disposal. Exported plastics destined for recycling should be properly sorted and labelled and definitely traceable. They should not be used for fuel in foreign countries, nor should they ever end up in the environment.

However, it would be utterly dishonest to not push this a bit further. As important as it is to prohibit the export of waste, we need to re-examine how we produce things in the first place, especially certain single-use products. Let me make this perfectly clear. We need to rethink the life cycle of materials in our economy. If the government really wants to take action on this issue and walk the green talk, it should transfer funds unconditionally—there can be no conditions whatsoever—to the provinces that, like Quebec, are already implementing a circular economy strategy and extended producer responsibility.

The federal government must act now to give Quebec recycling companies the means to recycle more complex plastic products. It appears that the limitation of Bill C-204 is that it does not go far enough. It does not address the fundamental problem, which, I believe, is how we produce things in general to ensure that we reduce our waste.

There is a very real and urgent need to reduce our production and consumption of single-use plastics. When I said that we need to rethink how materials circulate, it is important to understand that we need to transition to a circular economy. As a formality, let us take a little look back at what the circular economy is all about.

In short, it is a way to produce, trade and consume goods and services by optimizing the use of resources at all stages of the life cycle of goods and services. In a circular logic, the goal is therefore to reduce the environmental footprint while contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities. The circular economy has two main objectives: to rethink our methods of production and consumption in order to use fewer resources, and to protect the ecosystems that generate them.

How can we optimize resources that are already circulating in our societies?

There are three steps: using the products more frequently, extending the lifespan of the products and their components and giving new life to resources.

The circular economy proposes a number of strategies and business models that optimize the use of resources as long as we give priority to the shortest and most local routes. Whether from an economic, social or environmental perspective, the circular economy has many advantages and positive spinoffs. It makes it possible to create wealth by giving value to our raw materials, keeping our raw materials here, promoting the local economy and establishing successful companies.

The circular economy acts as a lever of economic growth by promoting the development of new business models and environmentally friendly technologies and products. That is a sustainable solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impacts of production and transportation.

In short, giving value to our raw materials at every step of their life cycle is a win-win situation. One person's waste can be transformed into useful material for others. For example, in Quebec, glass powder can replace up to 30% of the cement used in concrete thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and providing a great use for recycled glass.

Quebec has already committed, through RECYC-QUÉBEC and its recycling companies, to implement a production, exchange and consumption system based on the circular economy model. The federal government must provide more money to Quebec and the provinces to encourage them to do more. These initiatives are beneficial at all levels.

It is a cycle. We need to produce less and transform our waste into new products. We need to give them a second life here in Quebec and Canada instead of sending them overseas to be disposed of. The government has some responsibility here.

One way to produce less waste is to produce less single-use plastic.

This Liberal government had promised to ban single-use plastics, but that promise was deferred because of the pandemic. However, this pandemic has shown we must act urgently, as it has led to increased use of single-use plastics, despite the government's promise to ban then in 2021.

The list of COVID-19 plastic products, such as surgical masks, gloves, visors, disinfecting wipes and cutlery for takeout meals, has reversed the trend towards banning synthetic polymers.

In June 2019, Ottawa announced a plan to ban single-use plastic products in 2021. The ban unfortunately covers just six products: plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food packaging made from hard-to-recycle plastics. That is all well and good, but there are a number of other products missing from the list. We are still far from the goal of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030.

I have to say that the Liberals' environmental initiatives are utterly inconsistent. The Prime Minister had the gall to announce millions of dollars to help protect biodiversity around the world only to authorize, just a few hours later, 40 exploratory drilling projects in a United Nations-recognized ecologically or biologically significant marine area.

To make matters worse, Ottawa also chose to expedite project approvals by abolishing the environmental assessment process in place up until now. Ironically, this is happening at the start of what the United Nations has named the decade of ocean science for sustainable development and at a time when there is a collective awareness dawning that 2021 is the year when we must not miss the boat on environmental protection. With announcements such as these, I can say that my planet is suffering.

This year, the current government has completely missed the boat when it comes to the environment. It had the opportunity to initiate a true green shift by making massive investments in the energy transition away from oil with money allocated for the economic recovery. It did not do so. It has understood nothing. The current health crisis and the environmental crisis are not mutually exclusive. Our government's failure to take action on the environment over the past decades and this pandemic are intertwined. We must recognize this and take action now.

The pandemic, just like increasingly mild winters, is a sign that nature is changing. This week, in the month of January, the temperature was -3°C in the Gaspé. Not only is there a connection between COVID-19 and nature, but the political decisions we are making connects them more closely. Failure to take action on the environmental front will lead to a world where potential epidemics will be part of day-to-day life. The issue is how will our societies manage these threats.

The problem is that this government is inconsistent. On the one hand, it is promising to plant two billion trees in 10 years; on the other, it is investing billions of dollars to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. It wants to fight climate change, but continues to invest millions of dollars in oil projects. In March 2020, this very government stated with a straight face that the pipeline was consistent with the plan to fight climate change in Canada. This Liberal government does not see the environmental disconnect between expanding the oil industry and meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets. I am not making this up.

Non-recyclable plastic ends up in our waterways, decomposes, and ends up in our air and our food. This poses serious threats to human health. We have to think about the long-term impact of an excessive amount of plastic.

Until now, the government has rejected the idea of banning the export of plastic waste. It has opted for exporting plastic to be recycled. However, in June 2019, before being elected, the Liberal member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie said he was concerned about exporting plastic. He said the following:

In some cases, it is recycled, but not the way we might think. We know that China will use some of that plastic as fuel to meet its high energy needs instead of using other types of fuel.

The government's argument that we must not prevent materials from being recycled abroad does not hold water. The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has acknowledged that the current situation is akin to shipping our problems elsewhere. We can and, more importantly, we must do better. I sincerely hope that he will be able to convince his government of this.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to be rising today in the home of the Nuu-chah-nulth people on the unceded traditional territory of the Hupacasath and shíshálh people.

I am here, rising again to talk about plastics and the impact of plastics choking our ocean and the species that live in our marine economy. As someone from a coastal community, I can tell the House first-hand the impact it is having on our coastlines, and we have the longest coastline in the world.

This is an urgent issue that the Government of Canada needs to take even more seriously, and its obligation to the environment needs to be backed up with the words that were used at the United Nations in its commitments there, and also at the G7. When the government hosted the G7, it had a commitment for an ocean plastics strategy in the G7, a commitment around eliminating and reducing plastic pollution.

Bill C-204 is presented by the member for York—Simcoe, and I really appreciate his efforts on this bill and his enthusiasm. The House certainly knows the position of the NDP on plastics. In fact, this is my 87th time rising on the issue related to plastics. It is because it is an urgent issue, and we cannot take half measures to tackle this issue.

Back in 2017, I presented Motion No. 151 to the House. The motion was to develop a national strategy to combat plastic pollution. Thousands of Canadians reached out to their MPs to support this motion. We had many stakeholders from my riding and other coastal communities who rallied together to support the motion, which received unanimous support in the House, and I appreciate all members from all parties for supporting it.

I certainly want to highlight the work of my former colleagues Murray Rankin, Nathan Cullen and, of course, Megan Leslie, who have done really important work in relation to plastics. I want to thank the current members for Victoria, Vancouver Kingsway and Windsor West for their tireless efforts and work to protect our coastal communities from plastics.

It is because of this work that the government has made some efforts and steps in terms of banning certain types of plastics, such as grocery bags, straws and plastic cutlery. Those measures will come into effect this year. The government made commitments around derelict and abandoned fishing gear. This is a start.

However, we have a ton of work to do. When it comes to this issue being a priority for Canadians, a release that came out the other day from Oceana showed that a poll commissioned from Abacus Data found that 95% of Canadians are concerned about the impact plastic pollution has on our oceans. People across our country want to see real action when it comes to tackling this really important threat to our ecosystem.

When we go across the country, we hear concerns from people and hear stories about people seeing plastic washing up on their shores, but we do not have responsibility in place. There is still no extended producer responsibility.

The government is focused on a circular economy. The amount it is looking at reducing in its ban for this year of the six single-use plastics covers only a fraction of 1% of the amount of plastic that is currently being used. In fact, Canadians are laggards. In 2016, only 9% of plastics were recycled in Canada, while 86% ended up in the landfill, 4% was incarcerated and 1% was actually released directly into the environment, so we are not doing enough. We need to do a lot more here in Canada.

As well, we obviously need to stop the export of plastics abroad. The importance of today's bill is real, but it is also a half step. Honestly, we need to realize that we have signed on to the Basel convention, and we need to actually honour our agreement and commitment there.

In terms of this bill, in 2018 Canada shipped more than 44,000 tonnes of plastic waste to other countries because of our inability to recycle that plastic ourselves. Much of that plastic ended up in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. We certainly know it ended up in the Philippines. As members know, I rose in the House back in 2018 on what became an international embarrassment, as our waste was sitting in Manila in the Philippines. They wanted it sent back to Canada, and for good reason. A lot of these developing nations do not have the capacity and the infrastructure to recycle and dispose of the plastic we have been sending there.

We have children living in plastic slums on the other side of the world because of plastic being shipped by Canada. We can find Canadian labels in most of these plastic slums, and in their rivers and waterways. It is something we should all be embarrassed about as Canadians. We need to take this very seriously.

We know that the Liberals have dismissed the idea of banning plastic waste exports. They have again signed onto the Basel Convention, but we know that there are loopholes and ways that plastic is escaping through the United States and other countries we are still shipping it to, so their strategy is not enough. The Liberals need to adhere to their international commitments.

We know that if we take action now, we are going to see results. This is what Ashley Wallis from Oceana had to say:

Canada has an opportunity to lead in the fight to end the global plastic disaster. There is public appetite for stronger federal action. Now is the time to meaningfully reduce plastic pollution production and use, including banning more of the unnecessary and harmful single-use plastics that are choking our life-sustaining oceans.

I could not agree more. I know that we are talking about banning the shipment of plastics, but we actually need to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in our country. We need to, of course, stop shipping our plastics to other countries.

When it comes to the Basel Convention, clearly our country is not following through with our commitments. We need the government to listen to this. We would not be talking about this bill if Canada was actually honouring its commitment. We are a signatory to the original Basel Convention, which sets restrictions on shipping waste to the developing world, but we refuse to ratify parts of that agreement of stopping the plastic waste exports, because the government knows that it would not be in compliance of it. We want the Liberals to stop offering just words that they are committed and actually take real action on this.

Again, we have not heard the Government of Canada talk about extended producer responsibility and work with the companies that are creating plastics and redesigning it. I think of Nathan Cullen, who is now a B.C. cabinet minister. When he was the member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, he tabled a bill that would redesign packaging and ban the design of plastics that could not be recycled and reused.

The article on the Oceana release also cites:

Two-thirds of Canadians polled support expanding the ban to other harmful plastic products, including hot and cold drink cups, cigarette filters, and all forms of polystyrene.... These items—and many others—are commonly found littered in the environment...[including] our waterways, yet they are missing from the proposed ban list. This is despite recent scientific modelling confirming we need to significantly reduce plastic waste generation—not just increase recycling—if we want to have a fighting chance of curbing the fatal blow of plastic into our waterways.

We need to do this. I could speak all day on plastics, as members can imagine. Again, I see it first-hand.

I appreciate my colleague bringing the bill forward as his private member's bill. The more we talk about this issue the better, but we do need the government to stop talking on their end and take greater action. These lofty goals of banning six single-use plastics is going to make a difference of 1%. We are laggards.

We use more plastic per capita than any other developed country in the world, and that has to change. I know the government wants to create this circular economy idea, but that still means we will be doubling plastic use by 2035 if we continue on this trajectory. We need to reduce and eliminate our use of plastics. We need to obviously recycle what we have here in Canada, instead of shipping it overseas, and we need to honour the Basel Convention.

I want to thank my colleague. We will be supporting the bill to get to committee where we will be bringing forward amendments to improve this legislation. I hope the changes we will be bringing forward will be welcome.

Again, I want to thank him for bringing the bill forward, and I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House for talking about this very important issue, but let us take some action. Let us make some changes, so that children abroad are not living in plastic slums, because the plastic waste coming from Canada is choking out their waterways and their environment. They deserve better. The earth and the future deserve better.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to speak to this issue, and I want to compliment my colleague, the member for Courtenay—Alberni. He is clearly a leader on this issue and I appreciated his recognition of the member for York—Simcoe and his enthusiasm for this. He is generally a great guy.

This is not a partisan issue. I completely agree with the member for York—Simcoe when he describes it as a common sense way to improve what we are doing.

We have all heard this number, that 300,000 tonnes of plastic waste is collected in Canada and over one-quarter of that winds up getting exported to other countries, many of which we know cannot afford to deal with this plastic waste. We know that it goes to these countries and it is supposed to be recycled, but we all know, and we have heard the stories and seen the reports, that this plastic waste is sent to the a landfill or burned.

I can appreciate my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni talking about having seen it himself on the west coast of Canada. However, I have had the privilege and honour of travelling in my previous life. I have seen first-hand the impacts of Canadian plastic waste in the developing world in places like Southeast Asia. One of the most striking things about these beautiful places is that they are stunning landscapes and the people are lovely and wonderful, yet there is a constant flow of waste and plastic. We see it blowing around or being burnt as garbage. I can give a few examples.

I am thinking about my trip to Southeast Asia where I spent some time in Cambodia, which is one of the most remarkable countries in the world. What Cambodia has been through is truly remarkable. My friend and I were travelling from Phnom Penh, the capital, to Sihanoukville, which is a beautiful little coastal town where we would stay there for a couple of days. It took us several hours by bus to get there. The amount of garbage we saw along the side of the road was remarkable. Every few kilometres we would see garbage being burned, and it was mostly plastic. We would see children sorting through it and playing in it. It was a striking thing to see in a country that was so beautiful.

It occurred to us then that if every kid perhaps in the western world spent a week in countries like Cambodia, maybe they would think differently when they complained about something. When I think of it now, much of that plastic waste that was being burned came from Canada. It is shameful.

I had another experience in Nicaragua, which is another country where our waste goes. It is another great example. I was there to visit the Buena Vista Surf Club, an eco-friendly place off the grid. To get to it, I had to drive north of San Juan del Sur past the town dump, which was riddled with plastic and a constant burning of it. It was horrible to be surrounded by such natural beauty and see this waste, knowing so much of it came from our country.

We are all familiar with the 2019 Marketplace report on the village in Malaysia and the embarrassing story of that non-recyclable Canadian waste that the Philippine government sent back to Canada. I agree with my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni. We are paying lip service to the Basel Convention. It is embarrassing. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Our allies like Australia are leading by example, Australia with its recycling and waste reduction bill from 2020. It received royal assent and came into effect as of December.

The objectives of that bill are:

(a) to reduce the impact on human and environmental health of products, waste from products and waste material, including by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, energy and resources used and water consumed in connection with products, waste from products and waste material;

(b) to realise the community and economic benefits of taking responsibility for products, waste from products and waste material;

(c) to promote a circular economy that maximises the continued use of products and waste material over their life cycle and accounts for their environmental impacts;

(d) to contribute to Australia meeting its international obligations concerning the impact referred to in paragraph (a).

This should also be our objective.

Bill C-204 represents a truly unique opportunity for Canadian innovation to deal with our own waste. It represents an opportunity to support some of the existing innovative Canadian companies that are recycling and keeping plastic waste out of our landfills in Canada now and from going to places like Cambodia and Malaysia, companies like Cielo Waste Solutions in Alberta or Goodwood Plastics in Nova Scotia.

This represents an opportunity as well for Canadians to reduce their total waste. If Canadians saw how much waste we produce, instead of it being shipped away in other parts of the world where we do not have to think about it anymore, they would think more consciously about the waste we are producing.

It is also an opportunity for Canada to lead in the world by example as Australia is doing. It is an opportunity for Canada to stop polluting countries that can least afford to deal with our waste.

Bill C-204 is an important first step. I am a big believer in us getting this done. It is time for us to stop paying lip service to this issue of caring about the waste that we produce. We need to do something. I really hope all members in the House will support the passage of Bill C-204.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Issues around plastic and plastic waste are complex and multi-dimensional. Our government recognizes that plastic serves Canadians in many ways and plays an important role in the Canadian economy.

This pandemic has shown us that some plastics play a key role in saving lives and reducing disease transmission. However, end-of-life management of plastics continues to present major challenges. We must continue our work to reduce the quantity of plastic we send to landfills by reducing plastic waste overall, increasing plastic recovery in Canada and preserving its value in the Canadian economy.

The government believes that plastic waste should never be sent to other countries, where it ends up in unregulated landfills, local environments or the ocean. We applaud the Conservative Party's interest in tackling the growing problem of plastic waste, especially considering that the Conservatives have always opposed our government's efforts to tackle the problem. However, we do not support Bill C-204 because it is quite problematic as written.

First and foremost, our government will not be supporting this bill as we have a comprehensive agenda to achieve zero plastic waste and eliminate plastic pollution that includes action both domestically and internationally.

To stop problematic exports of plastic waste, Canada needs to begin at home. We need to reduce and better manage our plastic waste and ensure we export only clean and ready to be recycled plastics.

That is why our approach addresses the entire life cycle of plastic, and includes proposing a ban or restriction of select harmful single-use plastics, where warranted and supported by science; making producers responsible for their plastic waste; proposing the development of minimum recycled content requirements for products; investing in small and medium Canadian businesses and organizations, to advance innovative solutions; investing in sector-based and community solutions, to reduce plastic waste and pollution; advancing Canada's plastic science agenda by supporting research to better understand the value change, and the impacts, of plastic pollution on our environment; leading by example, in reducing plastic waste from federal operations; and, finally, working with industry to prevent and retrieve lost fishing gear and reduce plastic waste.

We are also taking action, through collaboration with provinces and territories, on this important issue through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. The government is working with all levels of government as well as with industry, organizations and first nations communities to mobilize and engage Canadians to reduce plastic waste and pollution, including by empowering Canadian households, businesses and institutions to use and recycle plastic responsibly.

In addition to our domestic action, we are also already tackling the issue of plastic waste internationally, which the hon. member's bill fails to recognize. We have taken important steps that will help prevent illegal exports, and will implement newly adopted international controls and transboundary movements of certain plastic waste. In fact, progress has been made to address this issue since Bill C-204 was introduced in February 2020.

Canada recently finalized its acceptance of amendments to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to control the transboundary movement of non-hazardous and non-recyclable plastic waste. As such, as of January 1, 2021, exports of certain plastic wastes to parties to the convention are subject to the Canadian regulations, and require permits and consent from importing countries prior to being exported from Canada.

These controls will ensure exports of plastic waste from Canada only take place when the importing country determines it can manage the waste in an environmentally sound manner. This regime should reduce exports to developing countries and improve the quality of plastic waste that is traded for recycling plastic waste under the Basel Convention.

As part of accepting these amendments, Canada has also established an arrangement with the United States, which is a non-party to the convention, to ensure the continued environmentally sound management of non-hazardous wastes and scrap, including plastic waste traded between our two countries.

Furthermore, we are actively working to implement additional measures to prevent illegal shipments of waste overseas. As was expressed during the first hour of debate on this matter, this work includes activities such as communication of regulatory requirements to Canadian waste exporters, taking action against those who break the rules, and collaboration between all relevant departments and agencies, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and Global Affairs Canada.

A second reason the government will not be supporting Bill C-204 is that the bill is unlikely to effectively tackle problematic plastic waste exports because it does not cover plastics that are exported for recycling. This is a significant issue, as there is little economic incentive to export plastic waste across long distances for final disposal. As such, the bill would not cover plastic waste that is exported for the purposes of recycling, but that go to countries that are not in a position to effectively recycle mixed or contaminated plastic waste. By failing to control exports of contaminated or mixed plastics if they are exported for the purposes of recycling, the bill would not reduce exports of this plastic waste or create incentives for trade in clean and ready-to-recycle plastic waste.

The bill is also unlikely to be effective due to the contents of the list of plastic waste. The list contains many entries that would not commonly be considered plastic. For example, ethylene is a gas at room temperature and is not considered a plastic material. While it can be used as an ingredient in producing certain plastics, it has other unrelated industrial uses. In these cases where precursor substances that are used to make plastics are on the list, the bill would also capture non-plastic materials.

Another reason the government will not be supporting this bill is that, as mentioned by my colleague during the last debate on this matter, Bill C-204's proposed ban on plastic waste exports would likely put pressure on landfills in provinces and territories. This runs counter to our collaborative approach to achieving zero plastic waste and transitioning to a circular economy for plastics.

Our government firmly believes in taking concrete action to reduce plastic waste in pollution and we are doing so, but putting pressure on municipalities, provinces and territories, which this would do, is not an effective approach.

In closing, although the government is pleased that the member for York—Simcoe raised the important issue of plastic waste exports, the solution that he is proposing is not an effective one. The government agrees that it is important to address the issue of Canada's exports of plastic waste and will continue to implement its comprehensive strategies both domestically and internationally.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I ran for office was so that I could work to improve our relationship with the environment and help leave a sustainable planet for future generations.

Bill C-204 on the disposal of plastic waste is a step in the right direction. I will give an overview of the plastic waste situation, suggest solutions and close by talking about our moral, international, intergenerational and economic responsibilities.

Plastic waste is the other pandemic we are facing, and we are not the only ones. It is a problem for the entire world's flora and fauna.

I would like to give a few examples that show why we need to be responsible about our exports and imports and especially about our consumption habits. I am sure that it comes as no surprise to anyone here that there is a seventh continent, the plastic continent.

This continent is located in the North Pacific subtropical gyre. There is so much plastic waste in the North Pacific subtropical gyre that it has been nicknamed the seventh continent, the great Pacific garbage patch or plastic island. It is estimated that the area of this continent is between 1.4 million square kilometres and 2 million square kilometres. To give you an idea of what that means, I will tell you that the area of Quebec is about 1.7 million square kilometres and that of Ontario is about one million square kilometres, which means that this ocean of plastic is larger than Quebec or Ontario.

Scientists have recently realized that the North Atlantic gyre also contains a large amount of plastic. They even suspect that plastic can be found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which is 11,000 metres deep. According to National Geographic, there are more than five billion pieces of plastic in our oceans and rivers. Nearly 73% of the garbage on beaches is plastic waste. Plastic production has grown exponentially from 2.3 million tonnes annually in 1950 to 162 million tonnes in 1993 and 448 million tonnes in 2015.

By 2050, all seabirds will be ingesting plastic on a regular basis. Currently, 700 species of marine animals have already ingested plastic or have been caught in plastic waste. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled and 12% is incinerated. Approximately 79% of this waste ends up in landfills or in the wild. Why would anyone want to export it? I say no, it is time to stop doing that.

I could go on and on, but there is one last statistic I really want to mention. Fully 40% of the plastics we use are used only once before they are tossed in the landfill or end up in the wild. Plastics have a lifespan of between 450 years and infinity.

Quebec and Canada are not beyond reproach. We have contributed to this disaster over the past 70 years. We have exported our waste to various countries, handing off responsibility for dealing with what we should have dealt with. By sending our trash to those countries, we have helped pollute vital bodies of water and jeopardized the lives of the people who depend on them and those trying to manage the waste as well as they know how. For example, right now, in a suburb of Accra, Ghana, waste covers an area of over 10 square kilometres, including a major river. People are burning the waste and are being exposed to arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury fumes on a daily basis for a measly two bucks a day. As far as I know, our waste does not go to Ghana, but waste we exported in the past has been handled just like this in other countries. The people in that country suffered the same consequences: pollution and toxic fumes. Why?

The reason is that they lack the necessary infrastructure or knowledge to deal with this waste properly. However, we have the knowledge and the ability to set up the infrastructure at both the provincial and municipal levels. It is time to stop offloading our responsibilities onto others.

When I rise in the House, whether to ask a question or deliver a speech, I try to offer some solutions. I know that they are not always heard, and I know that sometimes my suggestions come across as criticism, but it is important to listen.

Twenty-five years ago, when I was still in CEGEP, a man who had lost everything, his wife, his children, his home, his business, had the idea of starting a new business recycling recycled plastic pellets. He wanted to recycle something that had already been recycled. I remember he told me at the time that the plastic pellets were in our waterways and that he wanted to gather them and reuse them to make objects as strong as our grandmothers' Tupperware containers. People thought he was crazy. The banks refused to finance his venture, and he was even told to see a doctor because he might be bipolar. Where would we be today if he had succeeded?

Young people around the world are doing everything they can to rid the earth and bodies of water of plastic. There are floating garbage cans that suck plastic out of the water, boats that collect them, and more. These people are meeting a need. They are removing our garbage from nature. However, what will we do after that?

It is about time that we act responsibly, improve our recycling infrastructure here and, above all, stop offloading our problems onto our neighbours. It is all very well to stop exporting our plastic waste, but we should do something else besides burn or bury it here. We should listen more carefully to and support people like the gentleman I met 25 years ago. It is time to assume our leadership role. We should not fool ourselves. Even if we stop exporting our garbage, we must accept our responsibilities here.

According to National Geographic, only about 17% of our plastic waste can be processed. That means we need to find a responsible solution for processing the remaining 83% of plastic waste here. Quebec is not perfect, but it is working to create a circular economy with the help of Recyc-Québec and its recycling companies. A circular economy goes beyond traditional recycling. It is about reusing, making, repairing and innovating, and choosing renewable energy sources while using the product for its entire life cycle. In short, the goal is to get the most out of the resource and upcycle it into something new, such as park benches, clothing, carpets, toys, reusable water bottles, and so on.

Back home in Beauport—Limoilou, organizations like Mouvement pour une ville Zéro Déchet and Les Amis de la Terre and businesses like La Récolte and Le Vélo vert offer solutions to help people reduce their consumption to reduce their waste. Their ideas are gaining momentum, and the people of Beauport and Limoilou are becoming increasingly aware and engaged.

We, as parliamentarians, need to follow their example and be aware and engaged. This bill is a step in the right direction. I am not perfect, and neither are you. No one is. We are working together to improve our consumption and our use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics. We must not wait until we are perfect to take action. We need to act now and improve over time.

Let us be innovative and creative. Let us be daring. Let us reduce our consumption and buy intelligently so that we can reuse our purchases. Let us recycle properly and give credit to those who dare to do things differently. Most of all, let us stop exporting our own waste. We need to set an example. We have a moral and ethical obligation to our planetary environment and to future generations, who should not have to repair or maintain the planet because of our mistakes. We need to stop exporting our plastic waste. We also need to collectively think about how to manage such waste better so that we can turn an environmental disaster into a success and become an internationally recognized economic example. Let us export our knowledge and expertise, not our waste.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

January 28th, 2021 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Scot Davidson Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the matter before us tonight is straightforward. Canada should not be exporting its plastic waste for other countries to deal with. That is why Bill C-204 would prohibit plastic waste intended for final disposal from being exported to foreign countries.

The 44,000 tonnes of plastic waste our country is sending overseas each year is having a significant and detrimental impact on the environment. All too often this plastic ends up being illegally burned or dumped in landfills or in our waterways. This is affecting our air. It is affecting our oceans. It is threatening our very future. We can and must do better, but instead of doing better and doing the right thing, Canada has fallen behind. We are so far behind, we think we are in first place. While we are doing nothing, other countries are taking action. The United Kingdom and Australia are moving to implement stronger domestic laws to control the export of plastic waste. Additionally, 98 countries have ratified the Basel Convention's plastic export ban, something Canada still refuses to do.

It goes both ways. Many of the developing countries have been inundated with plastic from Canada and are now prohibiting these imports because of the negative impact these are having on their environments and their citizens. Bill C-204 would provide an opportunity for Canada to show global leadership and protect the environment. We are well positioned to do this. Not only do we have leading plastic-recycling capabilities, but Canadian businesses are also innovators. We are problem solvers, ready to make a difference in our circular economy.

In fact, Canadian industry has already developed made-in-Canada solutions to manage our plastic waste that can be utilized in so many different ways, including in construction and as fuel. With Bill C-204, our country could get behind these companies and support their efforts. Instead, Canada is exporting its waste to foreign countries. We should be leveraging this kind of innovation and making a difference right here at home. I truly believe that real, meaningful change does not come from Ottawa; it comes from Canadians. From coast to coast, Canadians know it is fundamentally wrong to be exporting our plastic waste, especially when we have the means to manage it here properly.

This is not a partisan issue. Members of all opposition parties have spoken in favour of Bill C-204, and last year the environment committee, including members on the government side, recommended that Canada implement a plastic waste export ban. That is why it is so disappointing tonight that the Liberals have indicated they will not be supporting this bill. They have done this while calling the export of plastic waste to developing countries beneficial, when clearly it is not. It is neither beneficial for us nor those countries, and certainly not for the environment.

Now it is time to adopt a better approach. With Bill C-204, we could finally ensure that our country will take responsibility for our own plastic waste. Over the past year I have had an opportunity to meet with environmental advocates, industry experts and others who are passionate about stopping plastic waste exports from Canada. I am grateful for their contributions and the contributions of my colleagues in the chamber tonight. I am certain that by working together we can see Bill C-204 proceed to committee. There, we can ensure that it accomplishes its objectives while being as robust and effective as it can be.

When considering this issue, I asked members to ask themselves what kind of country we want Canada to be. Do we want Canada to be the kind of country that shows leadership and does what is right, or do we want to be the kind of country that continues to avoid taking responsibility, because it is just too easy to keep plastic waste out of sight and out of mind whatever the consequences? Bill C-204 would be an opportunity to finally put an end to the export of plastic waste from Canada to foreign countries. As one member said, now is the time. Let us make this happen together.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

October 30th, 2020 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Scot Davidson Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

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.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

October 30th, 2020 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Western Economic Diversification Canada) and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Canada Water Agency)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, on the final disposal of plastic waste. Bill C-204 proposes amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to ban the export of plastic waste for final disposal in other countries.

I would like to thank the hon. member, as I did previously, for bringing forward this bill and for his interest in combatting plastic waste.

We all recognize the important role plastics play in our economy due to their low cost, unparalleled functionality and high durability. However, the negative effects of plastic waste and pollution on the environment are undeniable. It is estimated that in 2016, 86% of plastic waste ended up in our landfills, representing $7.8 billion in lost revenue.

Our government shares the member’s concerns about the management of plastic waste and the environmental harm caused by plastic pollution both at home and abroad. We agree plastic waste does not belong in the environment and that action must be taken to reduce and better manage plastic waste.

I would like to begin by discussing our government’s comprehensive agenda for achieving zero plastic waste, which will help us transition to a circular economy for plastics. Our agenda takes a multi-faceted approach that includes action domestically and internationally. It is grounded in science and evidence.

The bill before us is about trade in plastic waste. Plastic pollution, as I said, is a problem in Canada. It is estimated that 29,000 tonnes of plastic pollution entered Canada’s environment in 2016 alone. This challenge is even greater for countries that lack the capacity to properly manage it. Canada, as part of the international community, has recently taken significant steps to better regulate trade in plastic waste, particularly the waste that is most difficult to recycle.

Many countries, including Canada, trade plastic waste for recycling. The reasons for this trade include a lack of recycling capacity for some types of plastic and excess capacity for others as well as varying regional capacity across Canada. As well, as a traded commodity, plastic waste will end up in the most cost-competitive location. The majority of Canada’s trade in plastic waste is with the United States.

Until recently, there were no controls internationally on trade in plastic waste. In countries facing challenges with waste management, this plastic, traded in high volumes, could then contribute to plastic pollution. Canada took a leadership role in the adoption of new international controls on transboundary movements of plastic waste in May 2019. The new controls were adopted under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

These controls aim to tackle environmental issues raised by trade in plastic waste, including marine litter. As a result of the new controls, prior to a transboundary movement of plastic waste, the exporting state will have to seek and obtain the consent of the importing state. These changes will foster trade of clean, sorted and ready for recycling plastic, and will allow countries that import this plastic waste to confirm they are in a position to manage it in an environmentally sound manner.

This approach will allow everyone involved to reap the economic benefits of continued trade in plastics for recycling while addressing associated environmental concerns. Canada strongly supports these new controls and is working very hard to start implementing them as soon as possible.

We have also been taking concrete steps to prevent illegal waste exports from Canada under existing rules. These steps include communicating with waste exporters in Canada to ensure they understand the rules and enforcing the rules when they are not followed. We are working with other government departments, such as Global Affairs Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, to make sure this issue is tackled from all angles.

Our government has also been working closely with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment on the Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste. This strategy takes a circular economy approach. It outlines a vision to keep all plastics in the economy and out of landfills and the environment, and it provides a framework for taking further concrete actions.

One focus is that of increasing the level of recycled content in plastic products. For this, we first need to collect and recycle much more of our plastic waste here in Canada. Second, we need to kick-start the secondary markets that will buy and utilize this recycled plastic in a broad range of products. We are working with standards organizations, the provinces and territories, and industry to identify the means to achieve this and introduce new practices in the marketplace.

In addition, this government is committed to banning harmful single-use plastics where warranted and supported by science.

As part of our approach, we released a discussion paper that outlines our approach to reducing plastic waste and preventing pollution. This includes details on actions such as minimum amounts of recycled content in certain products or packaging. This measure in particular will strengthen recycling markets and make it more likely that plastic will be recycled at the end of a product’s useful life. We very much look forward to hearing from Canadians, governments, businesses and all stakeholders about these important initiatives.

I would now like to raise a number of considerations with respect to Bill C-204 that it is not clear the Conservative member or his party has contemplated.

They believe the sole focus is on exports of a specific list of plastic waste destined for final disposal and leaves the far more problematic issue of plastics destined for recycling unaddressed. Unlike the government’s comprehensive agenda, I am wondering if my Conservative colleague considered that this bill targets many substances that would not commonly be considered plastic and would not reduce volumes of plastic waste exported for recycling to countries that do not have the capacity to effectively recycle highly mixed or contaminated plastic waste.

Has my Conservative colleague considered that, in practical terms, the bill would also prevent exports of municipal solid waste to the United States to the extent that such waste contains plastic that is on the bill’s proposed list of plastic waste? Trade in municipal solid waste between Canada and the United States is a long-standing practice with environmental controls. Limiting such exports would put pressure on provincial and territorial landfills. The United States might also object to such a restriction. I would also note that a significant amount of all waste in Ontario, including household, industrial, commercial and institutional, is shipped to the U.S. for process and/or proper disposal.

I urge my Conservative colleague to consult with the provinces, municipalities and companies on this bill and take great care in fully assessing its implications.

I am proud to say that we are working on all fronts, internationally, domestically and in partnership with our provincial and territorial partners, industry and other stakeholders, to change how plastics are used and managed throughout their life cycle in order to increase prosperity and protect the environment.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

October 30th, 2020 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I will start by saying that the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-204, which was introduced by my colleague from York—Simcoe. We welcome this bill because it also gives us a chance to talk about some of the many other things the government should do about plastics.

We have to tell it like it is. We should be alarmed about the plastics situation. Eighty-six per cent of Canadians say they are worried about the impact of plastics on the environment, on pollution levels and, as the member for York—Simcoe pointed out, on health.

Excessive plastic consumption is caused by packaging and excess packaging of consumer goods and food. The industrial use of plastics, inadequate recycling infrastructure and the lack of recycling facilities, as well as lax regulations and Canada's lack of integrity on this issue internationally, must move parliamentarians to act. We feel that supporting this bill is essential because it really is a step in the right direction.

It should be a wake-up call. It should spur us to demand action. Let's remember that in the throne speech the Prime Minister said we needed to take action. Let's take action on this.

We should keep in mind that Canada's plastics economy is linear. Raw materials are extracted and plastics are manufactured, used and disposed of.

According to 2016 data, in Canada, 9% of plastic waste was recycled, 4% was burned for energy, 86% ended up in landfills and 1% was discharged to the environment as litter. Canada uses 4.6 million tonnes of plastic, which represents 1.4% of world consumption, while we represent only 0.5% of the world's population. I would bet the current record is even worse.

Canada has a sorry record in this regard, particularly when it comes to exporting plastic waste to developing countries. That is what Bill C-204 is all about.

Despite the country's full participation in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, under Conservative rule, Canada violated this convention by authorizing a mass shipment of containers to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. Canada dragged its feet for six years before finally bringing back the containers, which had been left in Filipino ports at a cost of $1.1 million. Clearly, urgent action was not taken and the issue was not dealt with quickly. What is more, what is happening with the Basel Convention ban amendment?

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that before even considering exporting its plastic waste, Canada has a duty to rethink how materials circulate in the economy. Canada must do the work here first and take the necessary steps to ensure that materials are managed properly in order to stop the reprehensible act of dumping. There is nothing acceptable, either morally or otherwise, about sending our waste to India, Thailand or Taiwan. I think the government already knows what it needs to do.

I would say it is perhaps deliberately turning a blind eye to the ethical, environmental and regulatory problems caused by its positions on plastics. This should elicit some degree of indignation or at least a sigh of exasperation. Do we really need yet another reminder that our ecosystems are in critical condition?

Let me turn to some more positive ideas and proposals.

There is the linear economy that I was describing earlier and that underpins the entire way that we consume plastic in Canada, and then there is the circular economy. The hon. member for Winnipeg South talked about this earlier, but we have to do more than just insert a term in this document. We need tangible projects that would create jobs, add value to the material and provide the best tools to protect the environment, achieve a green and fair recovery and ensure respect for international commitments. Those seem like pretty good arguments to me.

Although we recognize the work that needs to be done, Recyc-Québec and its partners have already begun the process of leaving the linear model behind and implementing production, trade and consumer systems based on the circular economy model.

Quebec is on the right track to accelerate this transformation with the Institut de l'environnement, du développement durable et de l'économie circulaire, where researchers and experts from the University of Montreal, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal are innovating.

Polytechnique Montréal is especially active in this area. It is home to the International Reference Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services, known as CIRAIG. I think that the federal government should consider establishing ties with this Quebec centre of expertise, because CIRAIG already offers consulting services and solutions for this issue to governments and businesses.

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie is very knowledgeable about this issue. Unfortunately, he does not seem able to communicate the urgency of the situation to his caucus. He recognized this in June 2019 when he said, “The crisis with China, Malaysia and the Philippines will force us to find solutions and to stop exporting our problems abroad.” Our hon. colleague was also fully aware that plastics sent to southeast Asian countries are incinerated to produce energy, with predictable environmental consequences.

At the G7 meeting held in the beautiful Charlevoix region, Canada and four other major economies signed a charter whereby they would commit to reusing, recycling or burning all plastic produced on their soil by 2040.

An action plan for implementing a circular economy is already in place at the European Commission and includes not only the scourge that is plastic, but also textiles, packaging, batteries and electronics. What is Canada doing?

Could the government stop this reprehensible practice of making promises and making commitments to the public and the international community and not following through?

Banning six single-use plastic products was necessary, but it is not the most ambitious move. It is a drop in the bucket of what we should be doing to properly manage plastic waste.

We know that the pandemic has increased the availability of these products, so their projected ban by 2021 seems unrealistic. Are there not other categories of plastic we can tackle, plastic products that are not affected by the pandemic? I have not heard anything about that. Do we have a timeline for phasing out the industrial use of plastics? We have not heard anything about that.

What bothers me is that the Government of Canada, led by the Liberals since 2015, is well aware of the plastic issue, especially since they brought in a renowned environmentalist to their team. The government's refusal to cease the export of plastic waste is irresponsible.

The absence of a planned initiative to progressively reduce our use of plastic is discouraging, but at least with Bill C-204, we will be able to stop sending our garbage to another country and instead deal with it here, which, for one, is much more ethical.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Private Members' Business

October 30th, 2020 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, over my time in this place, I have developed a great passion for Private Members' Business. In the 41st Parliament, I was successful in having my own private member's bill passed. Even though my bill was passed and supported unanimously, I am also aware of the tremendous amount of time and effort it takes to move a private member's bill forward, even when one has a bill that is supported.

Today, I will be speaking to the bill from my colleague for York—Simcoe, Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, final disposal of plastic waste.

I commend the member for his efforts to introduce a much-needed and practical bill that I believe should be unanimously supported in this place. After all, who could possibly oppose the exportation of Canadian plastic waste to become a dumping ground in other countries?

As many have said about this bill, supporting it would be a no-brainer. After all, we have all watched in recent years as Canada was embarrassed when our waste ended up as garbage piling up in other countries. In one high-profile case, Canadian taxpayers, at great expense, shipped our garbage back to Canada. I do not believe the person or persons responsible, who financially cashed in creating that costly embarrassment to Canadians, were ever held accountable. All too often, that is the problem.

We hear this Liberal government often say that there needs to be a price on pollution, yet in many cases, the people paid to properly dispose of it simply ship it off to dump it in other countries and it becomes their problem. It should not be that way.

It has been reported, “The federal government has previously dismissed calls to introduce a ban on all plastic waste exports, saying shipments since have 2016 required export permits on items considered “hazardous.”” and “Since 2016, no request for export permits for plastic waste were requested or issued.”

We also know that despite these changes, plastic waste continues to be shipped to other countries. How? Through mislabelling. It is not unlike what happens at many local landfills. Some items are free to dispose of, typically items that can be recycled, and others carry costs. Typically general waste costs more to dispose of. The operators of many landfills must literally actively monitor those disposing of waste to ensure that general waste does not end up in recycling piles. They must also ensure that toxic waste does not end up with the general waste. However, when we seek to ship plastic to another country, the Liberal government thinks that everyone is going to apply for a permit, knowing full well that export inspections are few and far between.

The bottom line is that if someone has ill intentions, the current approach from the Liberal government does not have sufficient safeguards to stop profiteering from exporting plastic waste. That is what this is really about. Individuals who are typically well paid to properly dispose of plastic waste seek to increase their profit by shipping that waste to other countries, and it is just not right. Why would we not seek to ban that, precisely as my colleague for York—Simcoe has proposed in his bill?

On a slightly different note, I am going to share a story with this place, because I believe it deserves to be heard. It is from my former riding, the community of Penticton.

A company named Appleton Waste was paid by many citizens of Penticton and area to properly pick up and collect garbage that would be transported and dumped at the local landfill. There was only one problem. The company did not pay its bills to the operator of the landfill, which was another local government, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, or RDOS as we call it in the region. Because the bills were unpaid, the RDOS had to suspend service to Appleton Waste.

Unfortunately, this did not stop the company from continuing to pick up waste and charge their customers for it. Instead, it made a deal that ultimately resulted in 5,000 tonnes of waste being dumped on lands within the Penticton Indian Band. The arrangement was that this was going to be a transfer station before the waste was hauled off to somewhere else. How did it end? The company disappeared, but a massive pile of waste became a serious problem for members of the Penticton Indian Band to deal with, and it was not even their own waste. It came from the citizens of the city of Penticton.

I mention this story because we all know the federal government, more specifically Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, is supposed to safeguard the interests of aboriginal communities to prevent these types of situations from occurring. That of course is often the problem in Canada.

When Ottawa fails, others are left behind to clean up its mess. It is no different than when Ottawa fails to stop the exportation of plastic waste, despite having this regime change requirement for an export licence. When garbage profiteers do an end run around the process, it is the other countries left to clean up the mess. It is just not right. We have an opportunity here to send a message.

Let me read the key part of what is being proposed in this legislation, “It is prohibited to export plastic waste to foreign countries for final disposal.” It really does not get much simpler than that.

For the “yes but what if” crowd who would look for reasons to oppose, I would point out that the bill also makes clear:

List of Plastic Waste

(1.?3) The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, amend Schedule 7 by adding or deleting from it any type of plastic.

This gives the minister in charge, through an order in council, and not even a change in legislation, the ability to define what is and what is not plastic waste for the purposes of complying with the bill. Technology can change. Maybe what is plastic waste today may be recycled tomorrow or something else. We can hope. Technology is always changing.

Either way, the bill would fully allow the minister to change the definition in whatever way makes sense given the circumstances. We all know that, sadly, there are those who will not apply for an export permit. Does anyone seriously doubt that, save for a small group of people within the Prime Minister's Office?

Before I close, I will simply add this. There will come a day when each of us will be somewhere in life that is not in this place. However, I expect none of us will ever forget the great honour of the time we have to collectively spend here. When each of us reflects upon that time, will we want to be remembered as members of Parliament who took a stand against exporting plastic waste to other countries or as MPs who were whipped into voting against something that we all knew was the right thing to do?

Once again, I want to commend the member for York—Simcoe for introducing a much-needed and well-constructed bill. I will be voting in favour of his program to support banning the export of Canadian plastic waste to other countries.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Routine Proceedings

February 7th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Scot Davidson Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-204, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (final disposal of plastic waste).

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, concerning the final disposal of plastic waste. I would like to thank my good friend, the hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, for seconding the bill.

This legislation would prohibit the export of non-recyclable plastic waste from Canada to foreign countries. For too long, Canada has been treating the rest of the world as its dumping ground. We are exporting our problems for other countries to deal with. While the United Kingdom and Australia have shown leadership on this issue, Canada has fallen behind.

In 2018 alone, Canada shipped more than 44,000 tonnes of plastic waste to other countries, despite our leading waste disposal capabilities. This is affecting our environment, it is affecting our oceans and it is threatening our future. We can and must do better.

I call on all members of the House to work together to support this ban on exporting non-recyclable plastic waste.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)