As our leaders head to the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec on June 8 with the intention of proposing the “Paris Agreement for marine litter,” and as our colleagues at Plastics Europe and the American Chemistry Council propose aggressive targets to curb plastic waste, we are now at a decisive moment when it comes to public policy and the global plastics value chain.
I am confident that this inflection point will create conditions for optimism, innovation and meaningful progress in the Canadian chemistry and plastics sector, as we chart the way to a future with zero waste.
As part of this leadership, CIAC has partnered with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and their members to announce the following waste reduction targets:
- an aspirational goal of 100 per cent of plastics packaging is re-used, recycled, or recovered by 2040, and
- an aggressive interim goal of 100 per cent of plastics packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030.
These targets will not be easy to achieve. They will require actions on behalf of all society. Likewise, the issue of marine litter requires all industry, every citizen and every government on the planet to come together.
We can all agree that plastics do not belong in the ocean, nor in any other water way – period. It is a significant waste of precious resources for plastics to be used once and then discarded as waste.
However, plastics remain central to our future. They are a key enabler to our modern and more sustainable way of living. They keep food fresher for longer, they make our cars and homes more energy efficient, they provide exceptional convenience and they do all that in a way that is cost effective and with clear environmental benefits over alternatives.
Industry, along with federal and provincial and municipal policy makers and other policy influencers, need to begin to work closer together to create the conditions where the value of plastics can be realized more than once, and in some cases multiple times across their lifecycle. Part of our role will include designing materials and applications for greater recovery, reuse and recyclability.
We also need to think globally. Neither Canada nor any other G7 nation is anywhere near being a significant contributor to ocean plastics litter. The nations that are key contributors need urgent technical and financial assistance to ensure access to modern, efficient waste management services which we in Canada largely take for granted.
In Canada and other G7 nations, we need to think differently about plastics and stop seeing them as a waste that needs to be eliminated. The chemistry industry is ready and willing to address this new challenge head on.