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

Just Posted

Parking time is to be limited in one spot on 9th. (Houston Today photo)
District seeks grant to update bylaws

And decides on 15-minute parking

Bench installation on 9th Street is another sign the project is nearing completion. (Houston Today photo)
Progress being made on 9th Street finish

District aiming for June completion

File photo
Mental health checks proving valuable

Police officer and nurse team up each week

The two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project arrived in Topley last week with Justin Cradock, owner of Pitbull Trucking Ltd. and the area is now getting prepared for installation. (Dan Simmons photo/Houston Today)
Cow Moose sign project billboards arrive in Topley

Two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project have arrived in Topley… Continue reading

File photo
Snow clearing changes would cost money, survey finds

Council being asked to give direction

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Most Read