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

Naramata Slow is almost at its goal of raising $850,000 to save Centre Beach from being sold.
Final push is on to save Naramata beach by Oct. 31 deadline

Village has already raised 90 per cent of the $850K goal

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Penticton RCMP cleared of wrongdoing after man seriously injured in custody

B.C.’s police watchdog found no evidence of harm caused by police in Sept. 21 incident

Apex Mountain Resort received 35 centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend, prompting some to head out for some early season turns. (Apex Mountain Resort / Facebook)
Stay off the mountain: Apex warns of early season dangers

Recreational use of the mountain before opening day comes with serious risks

The Penticton Indian Band is opposing any hunting of local big horn sheep which are an at-risk population. (submitted photo)
Penticton Indian Band oppose big horn sheep hunts

Local big horn sheep are an at-risk population

A house on Highway 3A caught fire Sunday evening, Oct. 25, 2020.
House fire on Highway 3A in Keremeos

Neighbours acted quickly to help save home

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

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
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

Salmon Arm RCMP responded to a seven-vehicle chain reaction collision early Monday morning, Oct. 26. (File photo)
One person injured in seven-vehicle chain-reaction collision in Salmon Arm

Snow packed to ice, speed contributing factors behind collisions

RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm early Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm man killed in collision on Highway 1

RCMP say slippery road conditions contributing factor behind collision

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Parents not giving up, after official search for Manning Park hiker suspended again

‘We are determined, but eventually the money is going to run out.’

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read