Evidence of meeting #151 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Ross  Director, Ocean Pollution Research Program, Ocean Wise
Jim Goetz  President, Canadian Beverage Association
Bob Masterson  President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
Isabelle Des Chênes  Executive Vice-President, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our study on plastic pollution.

Welcome to our witnesses. We'll begin in just a minute.

For those of you who have been at committee before, you may be familiar with the card system. Here we use the yellow card when you have one minute left in the time you've been given for your opening statement or the round of questions, and then the red card simply means you're out of time. Don't stop mid-sentence, but wind it up, and we'll move on to the next person.

We have Mr. Matt Jeneroux joining us today. Welcome, Matt.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

My pleasure, thank you.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

I think you're our only guest today.

We're going to start with our witness Dr. Peter Ross from Ocean Wise, by video conference. We'd like to do that because we have the technology working, so we'd like to jump into it.

From there, we'll move to our witnesses who are here with us. We'll probably go with Jim Goetz from the Canadian Beverage Association, and then we'll hear from the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, with Bob Masterson and Isabelle Des Chênes. Then our colleague Nathan Cullen will get in there as well for opening statements.

Everyone has been given 10 minutes. If you take less time, it gives us more time for questions and answers. I'll let you know when your 10 minutes is up for each of the opening statements, and then we'll go into a series of six-minute rounds of questions.

With that, Dr. Ross, I'll turn it over to you to start us off.

3:35 p.m.

Peter Ross Director, Ocean Pollution Research Program, Ocean Wise

Thank you very much.

I'm delighted to join you today from rainy Vancouver via video link. My apologies for not being there in person.

My name is Dr. Peter Ross. I'm vice-president of research at the Ocean Wise Conservation Association in Vancouver.

We at Ocean Wise, formerly the Vancouver Aquarium, have been showcasing for over 25 years the harm that plastic can cause. Through a range of research, engagement and action initiatives, we have engaged individuals, communities, the private sector and the public sector in a number of positive, practical and solution-oriented ways. We believe that in order to solve the plastic pollution crisis, we need a team approach, one that is inclusive and speaks to the role and the potential of each and every Canadian. After all, plastic is all around each and every one of us: at home, at school, at work, at play and on the road.

I'll simply touch on a few key points that are important to us and salient in terms of the plastic pollution crisis, and steps that we can take as a country.

The first point I'll make is that plastic is everywhere. The plastic pollution issue is widespread and very real. Our great Canadian shoreline cleanup has been documenting the “dirty dozen” items on beaches across Canada for over 25 years. Our plastics laboratory first documented the widespread distribution of microplastics in the north Pacific Ocean in 2014, and we are currently finding tiny microplastics throughout the waters of the Arctic Ocean. Simply put, plastics of all sizes, shapes and kinds are found everywhere in the Canadian aquatic environment.

Second, plastic is being consumed by all creatures, big and small. Everywhere we look, we find plastic: from rubber boots found in the stomach of whales to microplastics found in oysters. Our researchers even discovered that zooplankton, the foundational group of animals that sustain life in the ocean, are mistaking tiny pieces of plastic for food in the north Pacific Ocean. Plastic now appears to be found throughout aquatic food webs.

Third, plastic is harmful. In that, I refer to plastic pollution being harmful. Plastic is frequently confused for food by albatross and sea turtles—as we've known for decades—and it represents a serious conservation threat to several species and populations. Plastic can block or damage the gut; it can smother, suffocate or drown; it can entangle, slow down or get in the way; it can deliver a cocktail of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to the consumer. Simply put, plastic is not nutritious. Our marine mammal rescue team, together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has been disentangling sea lions off the coast of British Columbia for several years, a costly and dangerous operation that is important but cannot deal with the many hundreds of marine mammals that are presently swimming about the ocean with packing straps, nets and lines around their necks.

Fourth, plastic pollution threatens the quality of traditional seafoods for indigenous communities on Canada's three coastlines. Coastal communities along our three ocean coastlines rely heavily on seafoods. In coastal British Columbia, we have shown that the average first nations consumer eats up to 15 times more seafood than the average Canadian. In the Arctic, this can be as much as 25 times more seafood than the average Canadian. This means that seafood is far more important to these individuals in these communities, and it means that plastic pollution in the oceans threatens the quality and safety of their seafood.

Fifth, plastic pollution is not just about unsightly litter. Litter and marine debris present obvious risks to sea life, but the smaller pieces of plastic, the barely visible or invisible to the human eye plastics, which we call microplastics, have emerged as a significant new concern over the past decade. Canada's leadership in banning the microbead, a deliberately manufactured microplastic particle, through CEPA regulations was novel and forward-looking, an easy win. It was low-hanging fruit, but while conducting research in the ocean, we rarely run into microbeads.

What we run into, rather, are broken-down bits of larger plastics. These are called secondary plastics or, in the case of very small ones, secondary microplastics. Where do these come from? There is evidence from our group and others that larger products and items like old bags, containers, shipping materials and microfibres from textiles are actually escaping their intended use or leaking into the environment.

Our plastics lab has partnered with Mountain Equipment Co-op, Arc'teryx, REI, Patagonia, Metro Vancouver, and Environment and Climate Change Canada to track fibres from clothing—that's right, clothing—from home laundry through municipal waste-water treatment plants to the ocean, using high-end forensic science technologies and study designs.

In 2018, we published the first study documenting microplastics in a Canadian waste-water treatment plant. That was here in Vancouver. In this study, we estimated that 1.8 trillion particles of plastic enter the plant every single year.

Some of this, of course, is very bad news, but I view the bad news as an opportunity. Bad news can lead to good news. Everyone seems to understand that we have a problem, be they school children or professionals, and this offers everyone today an attentive audience and an invaluable opportunity to engage and to lead. Every year, the world throws away 150 billion dollars' worth of single-use packaging materials. A sizeable reward awaits the innovator, and this is a leadership opportunity for Canadian industry.

I'd like to suggest that Canada can take advantage of opportunities in the following key areas.

Number one is innovation and collaboration. If we are to effectively tackle this problem, we'll need to identify the sources of plastics in the ocean so as to be able to track those back to source. This understanding is key to engaging the public, the private sector and waste management agencies, and it will support green design, source control, recycling and regulations.

Number two is expert advice. Science is needed to support the identification of solutions. This includes the application of engineering technologies and designs. Our approach at Ocean Wise has been to establish partnerships with industry and government to identify and facilitate solution-oriented opportunities. These include our microfibre partnership with apparel retailers, the hosting of stakeholder workshops, participation in G7 discussions in support of the ocean plastics charter, and invited presentations across Canada and around the world.

Number three is education and engagement. If we are to solve the plastic pollution crisis, we'll need to arm Canadians with a better understanding of the topic. Engaging Canadians of all walks of life should be a very high priority. We designed our plastic wise program with this in mind. Plastic wise was designed to reach millions of people in Canada and around the world through our Vancouver Aquarium exhibits, our digital stories and online content, our media interactions, and through lectures, panels and workshops.

I put it to you that the time is right. We have an audience. Canadians are waiting, and never in my career as a pollution expert have I encountered such a desire for answers, such an appetite for positive change and such an expression of interest from virtually every sector in society.

Canada can help with a cohesive, forward-looking approach that nurtures scientific discovery, industrial innovation, best practices, green design and a circular approach to the plastic economy. Plastic is not the only threat to the world's oceans, but it is a significant one. The plastic pollution crisis offers us a chance for creativity, discovery and innovation.

Thank you for your time.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Excellent. Thank you for those opening comments.

We'll move now to our in-person panellists. We'll go to Mr. Jim Goetz from the Canadian Beverage Association for 10 minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Jim Goetz President, Canadian Beverage Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the members of the committee for providing the opportunity to speak about the leadership role that the beverage sector is playing in Canada to help build our circular economy.

We share the Government of Canada's goals to reduce waste and increase recycling. Our members actively participate in recycling programs across the country and use some of the most environmentally efficient packaging on the market.

The plastic beverage containers that our sector uses are made from PET, which is a lightweight, durable, 100% recyclable plastic material. It is one of the most valuable materials supporting Canada's recycling systems. Once collected, PET containers are recycled into several new products and packaging, such as new beverage containers, carpet, rope and upholstery fabrics. The reintegration of collected PET back into our economy reduces the need for raw materials, lowers greenhouse gas emissions and generates sustainable growth in the circular economy.

Because of the value of the packaging our members use, we have placed a high priority on collecting and recycling empty beverage containers. Across Canada, CBA members play a leadership role in the management of recycling programs in practically every province and are focused on collecting as many beverage containers as possible.

Our sector was instrumental in starting Canada's first-ever blue box program in Ontario, and we brought beverage producers together to launch Manitoba's highly successful recycle everywhere program. These are just two examples of the many provincial recycling programs that are supported with hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

As a result of our sector's leadership and our partnership with governments, Canada's beverage container recycling program collects and recycles more than 75% of our PET bottles. Although this rate far exceeds the overall plastic recycling rate, which is just 11%, our members are committed to delivering even better results.

The beverage sector has made significant global commitments to advance sustainable packaging, build the circular economy and reduce marine litter.

First, beverage companies have committed to making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's new plastics economy initiative.

Second, the beverage sector is supporting Closed Loop Partners, a North American investment platform that is advancing the development of recycling technologies and sustainable packaging. For example, it recently invested $3 million in Brantford, Ontario into GreenMantra Technologies for the recycling of fibre, film and plastic bags.

At home, CBA members continue to light-weight PET containers to reduce the amount of plastic needed to make each bottle. Additionally, our members have made individual commitments to increasing recycled content in their packaging as capacity expands for the processing of collected PET back into food-grade PET.

Those commitments, along with those made by other companies, are creating more demand for recycled plastics. However, to increase recycled content further across the economy, domestic capacity for processing collected plastic material needs to be expanded. Expanding recycling capacity is a key priority outlined in the national strategy on zero plastic waste, and it is an area where the federal government could indeed provide support.

As outlined in the G7 ocean plastics charter, the federal government has committed to “[i]ncreasing domestic capacity to manage plastics as a resource” and “strengthening waste diversion systems and infrastructure to...recapture the value of plastics in the economy”. The federal government could deliver on these G7 commitments by working closely with the provinces and supporting innovation, new processing technologies and facilities.

That support should help advance the implementation of the 2009 guidelines on extended producer responsibility that were drafted by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. All members of the CCME agreed that they would work towards the development of extended producer responsibility legislation and regulation. The goal of the CCME was to harmonize EPR programs. Still, many provinces have not begun to transition existing recycling programs into EPR programs. The federal government should use the opportunity of the June CCME meeting to outline a harmonized approach to EPR that provides the consistency needed for producers, while respecting the role of the provinces and territories in managing recycling programs.

I would like to conclude today by saying that this committee's study on this issue is timely and important. Again, I would like to thank members of the committee for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to your questions.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Excellent. Thank you for those opening comments.

Now we'll go to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. I don't know which one of you would like to speak. You both can, as long as you keep it within the 10 minutes.

3:50 p.m.

Bob Masterson President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We're very pleased to be with you today on behalf of Canada's leading chemical and plastic resin manufacturers.

It will be no surprise to this group, but over the last year global citizens have demonstrated a very deep concern about plastic waste and marine litter. Last year, we took that as an opportunity to survey 1,500 Canadians, and we found that their views were very much in line with global attitudes—nine out of 10 Canadians surveyed indicated strong concerns about plastics.

While plastics and plastic litter are not a new issue for our industry and the work we've been doing—and Mr. Goetz just talked about that—certainly the speed with which public perception has changed caught our industry off guard. Our industry, both in Canada and globally, has responded very quickly and very meaningfully. The North American industry has struck a leadership position and made clear its support for a circular economy for plastics.

Ambitious goals have been established that would ensure that 100% of plastic packaging is designed to be recycled and recovered by 2030. We've also committed to working with all the other partners to make sure that by 2040 all plastic packaging is indeed reused, recycled and recovered. These goals were advanced before, but they fully align with the G7 ocean plastics charter, which was agreed to by Minister McKenna last year.

Additionally, this past January, our industry's global leaders launched the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. This was a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Business Council For Sustainable Development, and Circulate Capital. Industry endowed that alliance with $1.5 billion U.S. to kick-start marine litter prevention projects in key developing countries. Imagine that. In six months, the global industry got together, agreed that this was a difficult problem, and pledged $1.5 billion towards it.

If we turn back to our survey results, we know that a strong majority of Canadians feel that they as consumers are responsible for the plastic litter problem. That result echoes what you would've seen in the CBC Marketplace survey issued last week. Canadians report that despite having broad access to recycling programs, they are extremely frustrated by the confusing rules for recycling and how those rules differ from home, to work, to play.

In Ontario, there are over 250 different municipal blue box programs. This is very frustrating to people. Personally, I can share with you that it's very confusing. In my household, we have four university degrees, and another one on the way, and we spend endless time arguing about the proper approach to recycling.

It shouldn't be that hard. We have to find a way to better educate people and to make the system work. There are jurisdictions that outperform us by seven to one in the amount of plastic material and other waste recovered and recycled. Surely if Japan and Scandinavia can figure it out, so can we in Canada. It does not have to be so confusing.

This confusion and lack of consistency contribute to the nearly 80% of post-consumer plastics that end up in Canadian landfills. As the other speakers have said already, that's a terrible waste of energy and precious resources.

I know the public has concerns about the amount of plastic in their lives. Before proposing any measures or actions, I think it's important that this committee understand why we're seeing that tremendous increase in plastic in our lives, at about twice the rate of global GDP growth.

Much of this committee's work over the past year has focused on the pressing issue of climate change. In many instances, plastics are the solution to the climate change problem, and that is a key contributor to the drive in growth. That includes lightweight, high-strength plastic composites in the automotive sector, improved insulation in the building sector, enormous quantities of plastic resins that are vital to the production of renewable energy from wind turbines and solar panels, as well as the very important role of plastic packaging in reducing food waste. I do hope you come back and ask the difficult question about why your cucumber is wrapped in plastic in your grocery store. Please ask that question.

We urge this committee to ensure that the proposed actions on post-consumer plastics do not undermine ongoing efforts to achieve our climate change objectives.

We're also aware that this committee has questions regarding chemicals in plastics, and we would ask you to reflect on the months dedicated to your review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, including Canada's world-leading chemicals management plan. We urge the committee to recognize that CMP is the appropriate process for considering the risks of chemical substances, including plastics, in any aspect of commerce.

Indeed, over the past several years, many of the substances that have been identified as possible concerns with respect to plastics have been assessed and, where appropriate, risk management actions have been implemented through CMP. These include BPA, phthalates, flame retardants, dyes, pigments, microbeads in personal care products—which we've just heard about—and more than 350 different plastic polymers. I could provide a longer list, but my point is to encourage this committee to place its emphasis on the areas that most need attention: improved plastic reuse, recycling and recovery. There would be very little value for this study to repeat the ground covered by your comprehensive CEPA review.

Instead, our advice to you is to focus attention on defining the appropriate role for the activities of the federal government to support the national zero plastic waste action plan to be delivered this June. From our perspective, we see three key areas for the federal government to play a role.

The first is certainly working with provinces and municipalities to better educate Canadians and to standardize the collection and the sorting, as well as the functioning of EPR markets for post-consumer materials.

Second, consider the needs and means to expand what we have, which is a paucity of modern recycling and recovery infrastructure across Canada. Many of the plastic materials going to the landfill could be easily recycled with investments in more modern infrastructure. We often hear people talk about black polystyrene, that we can't recycle that. Maybe you couldn't 20 years ago, but with optical readers in modern facilities now, it's just another material. It's very easily recovered, but you have to have more modern infrastructure.

Finally, we would encourage this committee to forgo short-term actions on bans covering a limited range of plastic products. This will distract attention from the need for a very comprehensive shift to a circular economy for plastics and could lead to unintended environmental outcomes.

I'll conclude by saying again that the study by this committee is very important and welcome. We thank you for this opportunity to share our perspectives, and we certainly look forward to whatever questions you may have.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Excellent. Thank you for your opening comments.

Mr. Cullen, I believe you have a private member's bill related to plastics pollution that has been tabled in the House. I'll turn it over to you for your opening 10 minutes.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

I think this is only the second time I've appeared as a witness in my time as a parliamentarian. Rest assured that you're quite an intimidating group from this point of view. It's much easier sitting where I typically sit.

That's except for you, Ed. You're not so intimidating.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Thank you.

April 10th, 2019 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Indeed, Mr. Chair, I have introduced a bill that is in the next order of replenishment so it will be in front of the House for our deliberations. I may refer to it, particularly if you have questions about it, but I'll try to focus on the initiative and why I think it was important to this very important study that you're engaged in. Congratulations for taking this on now. I think the timing is excellent, given the momentum, as some of our friends here have talked about, not just within Canada but around the world.

The problem has been well stated. If we are able to recycle only 11% of plastics that go into the blue box, we have an identifiable problem. We have been running blue box recycling programs in this country for almost 40 years. This is a generation that has struggled—and I would argue, unsuccessfully struggled—at all levels of government to fulfill the promise of what it is when a Canadian buys a product, uses the product, and then seeks to recycle it, creating the circular economy that my friends have talked about. We are not fulfilling that promise right now.

Very specifically, what should the role of the federal government be? I think it's in setting the parameters and the rules. The federal government, I would argue, might not be well suited to start dipping into every recycling program within the country in every jurisdiction and every town and city, deciding what exactly their recycling program needs to look like, but we can certainly talk to industry and work with industry to set down the parameters of the products at the initial point of the plastic being manufactured. Because there are so many types of plastics available and so many are used for packaging, which is what my bill deals with, we don't have a consistent ability to promise Canadians that if they buy a certain product the odds of its getting recycled are very high.

We have also been relying—and my colleagues here would do a better job than I would—on foreign markets taking what we seek to recycle. That reality has shifted dramatically within the last number of years. With the recent changes in Chinese law and in some of the other receiving countries, Canada and Canadians can no longer rely on our recycled materials ending up somewhere else and being dealt with. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians want more done on this. As an active politician, though maybe not in the next round, I know the appeal of trying to get in front of issues and address issues that our constituents deeply care about.

From an economic point of view, we also have to realize that a successful and more efficient recycling program is very good for the economies of those countries that have been able to achieve much higher rates of recycling. I look to my friend from Toronto, and even with the issue of, say, contaminated plastics, which is about 25% or 26% of what happens in Toronto, for every 1% we take down—clean up the stream, if you will—we save Toronto taxpayers $1 million. With every 1% that we get better at what goes into those blue boxes and then ends up at the sorting centre, we can save that constituency $1million just in taxes.

The last time I appeared at committee was 14 years ago. I introduced a bill to ban phthalates, a plastic softener, out of products that were being given to children in Canada, because that particular chemical has an endocrine disruptor effect. That bill eventually passed unanimously in the House of Commons. What was important for me is that there was initial resistance from industry. I don't want to step on Mr. Masterson's toes, but there was a resistance saying that you can't replace or that replacements are worse. I think we need to be courageous in talking about how to make sure that everything that is manufactured can truly be recycled in this country and that promise is actually fulfilled. It is no one's fault but everybody's responsibility.

For those looking to pin the blame on industry, municipalities, the federal government or the consumer making choices alone, that's not correct. I put my recycling out on the curb this morning. I felt good doing it. I felt like it was the most natural and normal thing to do: go through the sorting, stand out there in the snow—which seems wrong on so many levels in mid-April—and then take it to the curb. Even though I've drawn up a private member's bill that I'm trying to introduce to make that process better, once I put it on the curb I thought my job was done. I feel like I ticked that box as a good Canadian citizen and that the plastic will go away and turn into something useful again, even though I've read the literature and come to realize that this process is not complete and the economy is not circular.

What can the federal government do? I think it's simply about understanding what is truly recyclable. I don't mean that it simply has the little triangle on the back with a number inside, but that it can be recycled legitimately in Canada. I think Mr. Masterson was referring to this at the end of his comments. Those plastics are what should be produced. Plastic packaging that can't be recycled, which is what I deal with, shouldn't be produced. I don't know why, given the plastic waste crisis that our first guest talked about, the plastic pollution crisis—I want to get the term correct—we would continue to say that it's acceptable that by the end of 2050 we will have more plastics in the ocean than fish, by weight.

It is, in fact, in its own way, an insidious circular economy. The plastics do come back to us. They don't come back to us in the form of products. We eat them; our children eat them. We consume them because they end up in the fish. They end up in the biosphere that we are a part of.

I want to be brief with my comments, because we have a lot of witnesses today.

I think that aspirations are good. I laud the current federal government for its aspirational statements of where we're getting to. We also need to have concrete promises to make that achievable, that we aspire to recycle this much by such-and-such a date. If we aren't fixing the upfront part of the problem, the production, and if we're not solidifying how to make sure that industry can work with us and then find a way to make sure that the promise is made complete, then they will remain aspirations. A future environment committee will be sitting here five or 10 years hence, on the eve of that deadline, and it will have to push the deadline off again because of whatever reasons/excuses may be available to it.

I want to end with this. I think that the statement on climate change, which this committee has spent a great deal of time on.... Right now, globally, 8% of all oil that we consume is used in the manufacturing of plastic. At our current rate of use, that will hit 20% of all oil produced in the world by 2050. It's both solution and problem, I would say, if one looks at it solely through a climate change lens.

Again, yet another argument for creating that truly circular economy when it comes to plastic is that single-use plastic, and the $150 billion of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans and in our landfills, is insidious. It's economically stupid, and it is going to cost us even more down the road.

I'll end there, Mr. Chair. I look forward to any questions folks might have about the bill or about any comments I have made today.

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Thanks, Mr. Cullen.

I have to say that you're probably the first politician who's left time on the clock, so I appreciate it.

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

With that, we'll go over to Mr. Amos, who has the first six-minute round of questions.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all of our witnesses.

I agree. This is timely and a great opportunity for constructive suggestions.

First off, Mr. Masterson, it's nice to see you once again.

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

Bob Masterson

Thank you, sir.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I'm wondering, for the public who may see the plastics issue through the lens of single-use plastics—cigarette butts, plastic straws and forks, etc.—what response does your association have? Can we not just take action right now and start prohibiting, under existing law, specific types of plastics that are just less necessary than the alternatives that are available?

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

Bob Masterson

There are a couple of things we would say.

One is, yes, if appropriate, but you need to take an evidence-based approach to that. Banning one thing doesn't mean the problem goes away; you could be replacing it with something else. We have seen authorities such as the Quebec government, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and others say that, on a life-cycle basis, a plastic bag is better than some of the alternatives. We would encourage you to take, as in any decision a government would make, an evidence-based approach.

Second, we think there are cautions when you make choices on behalf of consumers and citizens. You're suggesting that they don't have the ability to do that. Certainly our industry strongly supports education and the right to a straw if you have a reason. Keep it behind the counter. Allow people to ask for it. Refusing them the opportunity, if that's the product they need.... Where does that stop? At what point of commerce do you make those decisions? We don't ban people from smoking today.

I think there are a couple of pieces there that we would encourage governments to think about when they make decisions: evidence-based decisions and the role of consumers in making their own informed decision on any aspect of the economy.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

As a follow-up, we've seen plastic straws banned in Europe and in various other jurisdictions. I have used a non-plastic straw, and it works. I'm sure—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

It doesn't work for me.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

It might not have worked for MP Fast, but we won't go there.

On the specific issue of plastic straws, for example, does your association oppose the banning of single-use straws?

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

Bob Masterson

We would encourage an informed decision-making and the right to choose one if that's what you wish. Have the straws available.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Okay. I think—

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

Bob Masterson

Again, our point in this discussion would be that it is holistic, when you look at the volumes of material here. I have the numbers. Hopefully, the Environment Canada participants provided you with the study they commissioned for the CCME.

When you look at the amount of plastic in the economy, you can see that packaging alone is 33%. By the time you get down to straws and other things, you're probably well below a couple per cent. If we want to drive societal change, change across all levels of government, we need to focus on the real issue, which is creating that circular economy.

I worry that if you say to the public, “Here are 10 things we wish to ban”, by the time you've done that you've lost their attention and they believe they've solved the problem. You'll be back where Mr. Cullen warned you that you may be 10 years down the road.