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Press Centre

National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastics

Plastics are now found in 93% of our drinking water, one estimate has plastics in the ocean exceeding all fish in weight by 2050. Micro plastics are mistaken for food at various levels in the food web, creating barriers to ocean productivity. The extent of the problem is largely unknown but, with 10 million tonnes going into the sea annually, the problem is enormous and growing.

The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre has prepared a report for T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation titled A National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution: A Blueprint for Federal Action. Plastics pollution is an increasing threat to Canadian ocean habitats and the species that live in them. Plastics pollution in our ocean has reached a critical point.

However, we can stop the problem from growing and reverse the trends through regulation and education. This report presents key components to a National Strategy to combat marine plastic pollution in Canada. The Strategy outlines expectations and ways for the Federal Government to act now and take a lead on removing existing marine plastic pollution and prevent future Canadian plastic pollution.

The Strategy is timely as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the issue of creating of a plastics charter earlier this year. In addition, Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, spoke of a zero-plastics-waste charter at the World Ocean Summit in Cancun last month. McKenna wants to create interest in a plastics charter amongst the G7 and G20 nations.

The Strategy builds on the Seven Reforms to Address marine Plastic Pollution and offers specific, practical commitments through existing regulatory frameworks for the Federal government to take action now.

Recommended Components of a National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution

A National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution should, at minimum, include the following recommended components:

  • A federal commitment to reduce Canada’s marine plastics pollution by setting legally binding national targets in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments. We recommend a reduction to 50% of 2018 levels by 2025, 80% by 2030, and 100% by 2050.26
  • A federal commitment to create national standards and best practices to help Canada meet national reduction targets, and to make best efforts to persuade and incentivize other levels of government to adopt them.
  • A federal commitment to fund and coordinate interjurisdictional efforts to meet national reduction targets.
  • A federal commitment to enact legislation to address aspects of the marine plastic issue that are clearly within federal jurisdiction.
  • A federal commitment to put marine plastic pollution on the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) agenda and make best efforts to establish a CCME working group on the issue.
  • A federal commitment to work with the provinces and territories to extend plastic producer responsibility for the full life-cycle costs of plastic products and plastic packaging produced in or imported into Canada.27
  • A federal commitment to facilitate technological transfers between governments across
  • Canada – and between domestic governments, scientists, and industry innovators – in order to meet national targets.
  • A federal commitment to spearhead efforts to educate the Canadian public about the importance of reducing marine plastic pollution, in collaboration with organizations that are already engaged in this work.
  • A federal commitment to build on Canada’s Zero-Plastics Waste Charter initiative and set a global example by combatting marine plastic pollution swiftly and decisively at home.29
  • A federal commitment to measure Canada’s progress on marine plastics pollution by developing effective measurement criteria, monitoring key metrics, evaluating and reporting to Parliament on its progress at regular intervals, and reviewing its approach to marine plastics reduction at regular intervals.

What you can do: