Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson speaks during a news conference announcing the ban of specific plastic products Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 in Gatineau, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson speaks during a news conference announcing the ban of specific plastic products Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 in Gatineau, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Plastics industry says its products are not ‘toxic’, urges govt to rethink label

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced six single-use plastic items that will be banned

The federal government’s plan to ban some single-use plastic products by labelling them “toxic” to the environment is defamatory and harmful to the companies that produce them, an industry group said Wednesday.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced a list of six single-use plastic items that will be banned because they are both harmful to the environment and difficult to recycle.

Plastic straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings, carry-out bags and Styrofoam plates and takeout containers won’t be allowed to be sold in Canada once the ban takes effect, likely by the end of 2021. Other single-use items will be managed by setting standards to encourage them to be reused or recycled.

To do all of that, Wilkinson said on Oct. 10 he will add “plastic manufactured items” to the “toxic substances list” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Things on that list must then be managed to limit their release into the environment. In this case, that means banning some things, and setting standards to encourage recycling or reuse of others.

But Elena Mantagaris, the vice-president of the plastics division at the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said plastic products don’t belong anywhere near a list of harmful products that includes mercury, asbestos and lead.

“It’s a criminal-law tool and it’s intended to manage toxic substances,” she said. “Plastic is an inert material. It’s not toxic.”

Putting plastics up there with chemicals that kill people is just giving critics of the plastics industry a chance “to use a label for their own interests,” she said.

“That’s reputational damage to a sector, suddenly calling it toxic,” said Mantagaris. “That’s not fair game.”

READ MORE: Straws, stir sticks and bags among first targets of countrywide plastics ban

Under the act, known as CEPA for short, a toxic substance is defined as one that can have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on environmental or human health if it gets out into the world.

Anything designated as toxic under the act must first undergo a scientific assessment to determine if there is harm.

The final scientific assessment on single-use plastics was released Wednesday and confirmed preliminary findings, made public in January, that plastics are found often in the environment, and have been proven harmful to wildlife and habitat. Turtles and birds and sea mammals, in particular, have been hurt or killed by ingesting plastic or being entangled in it.

The impact on human health is still unknown, but some studies have found tiny particles known as microplastics, in air, food and water.

Wilkinson said to him the fact plastics cause harm is not in question and Mantagaris said the industry agrees that plastics should not be in the environment. But, she said, working to keep plastics out of the environment doesn’t mean they are toxic.

Wilkinson said if the issue is just one of semantics, the word could be changed.

“What I have said to them very clearly is we are open to a conversation,” he said. “If the issue is a nomenclature issue we’re willing to engage that conversation but the fundamental issue around pollution remains and we need to address it.

Mantagaris said the industry isn’t in favour of bans at all, but would rather work with the government so plastics are continually recycled and never end up in the environment. But she said the government’s words on that front have not been backed up with any kind of funding or real plan.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Plastic waste

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Michelle Thorne of Fernie Distillers with some Griz-themed cocktails available for Griz Days 2021. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Griz Days comes to town

While mostly virtual, there’s Griz-themed food and drink around town

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. File photo
COMMON’S CORNER: Challenging the government on vaccine availability and more

The first of a quarterly column from Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison

(L-R) Shawna Klein, Elkford Branch Manager; Stephen Fairbairn, Director at EKC and also Secretary of the Elkford Housing Society; Kim Bauer, Vice President, Elkford Housing Society; Donita Orsten, Staff Representative of the Legacy Celebration Committee. (Image contributed by EKC)
EKC donates $10,000 to Elkford Housing Society

The society is working towards constructing 22 homes for seniors in Elkford

The Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre (VIAC) is gearing up for another season of providing avalanche safety information. Black Press file photo
Black Diamond, PIEPS issue recall for avalanche transceivers

PIEPS said that avalanche incidents in 2017 and 2020 had prompted the recall, but defended the product

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read