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Implementation of harmonized Extended Producer Responsibility strategies to incentivize recovery of single-use plastic packaging waste in Canada


Abstract and Figures

Mil­lions of tonnes of vir­gin (pri­mary) plas­tic are pro­duced an­nu­ally, while re­cov­er­able (sec­ondary) plas­tic rapidly ac­cu­mu­lates as waste in land­fills and the en­vi­ron­ment. Sin­gle-use plas­tics (SUPs) have short lifes­pans, and most of this waste is gen­er­ated by pack­ag­ing from global food in­dus­tries. Food pack­ag­ing waste com­prises ap­prox­i­mately one-third (8 mil­lion tonnes) of all Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal solid waste, and only 20% is re­cov­ered for reuse or re­cy­cling. Ex­tended pro­ducer re­spon­si­bil­ity (EPR) strate­gies lever­age cor­po­rate re­sources to re­duce SUP waste gen­er­ated by con­sumers. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of EPR strate­gies al­lows lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions to gain greater con­trol over their waste streams. Al­though Canada has had a na­tional EPR strat­egy since 2009, it is cur­rently only im­ple­mented for pack­ag­ing in five provinces (e.g., British Co­lum­bia, Saskatchewan, Man­i­toba, On­tario and Québec), and is cur­rently un­der de­vel­op­ment in New Brunswick. In this short com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a case ex­am­ple of EPR im­ple­men­ta­tion in Nova Sco­tia is pro­vided which high­lights the po­ten­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ($14–17 M CAD in es­ti­mated sav­ings), for im­proved solid waste man­age­ment and for in­creas­ing re­cy­cling rates. Fur­ther, a re­gional EPR strat­egy is rec­om­mended for all At­lantic Cana­dian provinces (e.g., New­found­land and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Ed­ward Is­land and Nova Sco­tia) now that the Cana­dian fed­eral gov­ern­ment has an­nounced a move to­wards zero plas­tic waste un­der the Ocean Plas­tics Char­ter.
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1. Introduction
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J;DJ M?J> J>; +I M7IJ; >?;H7H9>O M>?9> 7H; JE H;:K9; H;KI; H;9O9B; 7D:
97D >;BF )+ FHE=H7CI ?D 7D7:7 C;7IKH; J>;?H ;<<;9J?L;D;II J>HEK=> 7
L7H?;JO E< F;H<EHC7D9; ?D:?97JEHI IK9> 7I ?D9H;7I;: H;9O9B?D= H7J;I H;
9EDI;HL7J?ED 7BED= M?J> H;:K9;: D;=7J?L; ?CF79JI ED >KC7DI 7D: ;D
3. Conclusions
'EM J>7J J>; 7D7:?7D <;:;H7B =EL;HDC;DJ >7I 9ECC?JJ;: JE CEL;
JEM7H:I P;HE FB7IJ?9 M7IJ; 7D: >7I FHEFEI;: 7 >7HCED?P;: )+ IJH7J
;=O 79HEII J>; 9EKDJHO J>; J?C; ?I H?=>J <EH 'EL7 ,9EJ?7 7D: 7BB JB7DJ?9
7D7:?7D FHEL?D9;I JE @E?D M?J> ';M HKDIM?9A JE :;L;BEF 7 H;=?ED7B
)+ FHE=H7C (D9; ?CFB;C;DJ;: ?J M?BB 8; ?CFEHJ7DJ JE 9ECF7H; B?JJ;H
7K:?J :7J7 <HEC H?J?I> EBKC8?7 ,7IA7J9>;M7D &7D?JE87 (DJ7H?E 7D:
*KR8;9 M?J> JB7DJ?9 FHEL?D9;I JE =7HD;H 7 8;JJ;H KD:;HIJ7D:?D= E< J>;
;<<;9J?L;D;II E< )+ IJH7J;=?;I 7J H;:K9?D= ,.) <EE: F79A7=?D= FEBBK
J?ED <<;9J?L;D;II E< )+ I>EKB: 7BIE 8; C;7IKH;: <EBBEM?D= ?CFB;C;D
J7J?ED 7D: 97D 8; 7II;II;: J>HEK=> 7 L7H?;JO E< F;H<EHC7D9; ?D:?97JEHI
IK9> 7I ?D9H;7I;: H;9O9B?D= H7J;I H;:K9;: ;D;H=O 9EDIKCFJ?ED BEM;H
=H;;D>EKI; =7I ;C?II?EDI H;IEKH9; 9EDI;HL7J?ED 7BED= M?J> H;:K9;:
D;=7J?L; ?CF79JI ED >KC7DI 7D: ;DL?HEDC;DJ !7HCED?P;: )+ 79HEII
FB7IJ?9 M7IJ;
KD:?D= M7I FHEL?:;: 8O ?L;HJ ',
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)+ FHE=H7CI ?D 7D7:7 +;JH?;L;: <HEC >JJFI7:L7D9;:M7IJ;IEBKJ?EDI97C7A?D=
FHE:K9;HIF7O<HECIJ;M7H:I>?FJE?DDEL7J?L;;FHFHE=H7CI?D97D7:7 799;II;:
FH?B  
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9;II;: FH?B  
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&7H  
;O;H + #7C8;9A # + %7M $ %  )HE:K9J?ED KI; 7D: <7J; E< 7BB FB7IJ?9I ;L;H C7:;
,9? :L   ;
?HEKN DL?HEDC;DJ7B EDIKBJ?D=  ,J7J; E< M7IJ; C7D7=;C;DJ ?D 7D7:7 +;JH?;L;:
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+;JH?;L;: <HEC >JJFI=BE87BD;MI97D;MI>EMJETN97D7:7IH;9O9B?D=
?D:KIJHO 799;II;: FH?B  
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+;IEKH EDI;HL +;9O9B  
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 
... Several US states are now considering proposals similar to the European Union that has started to require manufacturers to fund end-of-life collection and recycling [Ibid.], similar to the case of plastics producers which are also often heavily subsidized [194,195]. Wind power has at times been considered wholly inadequate from various perspectives including fluctuations in supply due to issues both at low and high wind speeds, low energy density in terms of area requirements for turbines to be able to generate significant power under ideal conditions, and the harm to birds [196]. ...
... Reuse of cosmetics packages can lead to hygiene concerns and there are added issues of reverse logistics, turnaround times and return rates. Recycling can be difficult due to contamination with residual formulation in discarded products and requires separation of waste streams and appropriate infrastructure; and production of recycled plastics is currently not economically viable in many countries as primary plastics production is highly government-subsidized [195]. While it extends the lifetime of the material in terms of useful economic life, after a few cycles the material eventually needs to be discarded; and materials with indefinite recyclability along with means for their complete capture and processing remain an aspirational goal [22]. ...
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In spite of the significant progress towards sustainable cosmetics, mass-produced sustainable packaging has proven to be a challenge. The complexity of environmental, economic, social, technological and policy considerations in conjunction with varying consumer behaviors and corporate goals can make it difficult to select an optimal strategy across heterogeneous supply-chain components spread over the globe; and the cost and effort of developing, testing and validating alternative strategies discourages empirical exploration of potential alternatives. This review discusses the challenges that can be expected in the context of broader sustainability efforts, as well as the experience gained in related fields such as sustainable cosmetics and sustainable packaging, to identify potential pitfalls as well as promising trends towards development of sustainable cosmetics packaging. The findings suggest there may be little to be gained from attempting to induce customers to change their behavior; waiting for a significant increase in global recycling infrastructure; or expecting regulatory constraints to substitute for the lack of technological and business solutions. A research strategy is delineated towards development of sustainable packaging that, with appropriate policy support, could minimize externalities and provide mass-produced packaging that is acceptable to both consumers and producers.
... As a result, many national and regional governments around the world have focussed their mitigative efforts to reduce single-use plastics using legislative tools (e.g. bans and taxes) Carlos Bezerra et al., 2021;Clayton et al., 2021;Schnurr et al., 2018;Xanthos and Walker, 2017), or EPR approaches (Diggle et al., 2023;Diggle and Walker, 2020) as Chile has done. ...
Plastic pollution is a critical environmental issue with far-reaching and not yet fully explored consequences. This study uncovered a significant source of plastic contamination arising from improper application and management of expanded polystyrene (EPS) utilised as expansion joints at a construction site near the coast of Anto-fagasta, Chile. Through meticulous field observations and calculations, we estimate that a staggering 82.9 million EPS spheres have the potential to be released into the environment from the 7.62 m 3 of this material used for the construction of this coastal promenade, constituting a chronic source of pollution. Despite the ongoing construction , we have already evidenced mechanical fragmentation and dispersion of EPS microplastic pollution in the surrounding natural environment. To our knowledge, this is the first study that documents misused construction materials contributing to plastic pollution. In addition to the EPS pollution, our findings reveal an alarming accumulation of litter-an acute pollution source-including plastic cups, bottles, carrier bags, and several other construction materials (e.g. plastic nets, films) that are exacerbating the pollution problems within the region and potentially endangering marine and terrestrial organisms. These observations highlight the urgent need for mitigating measures and intervention policies targeting construction-related plastic and microplastic pollution, along with a more robust regulatory framework for construction activities as well as adequate surveillance and enforcement.
... Member states commit themselves to achieving their global environmental goals between now and 2030 through effective Environmental Management and Sustainable Development ISSN 2164-7682 2023 implementation of regulatory measures (Directive EU, 2019). This study implies that policy frameworks and regulatory measures aimed at minimizing the plastic waste menace should be developed to protect the environment (Bezerra et al., 2021;Clayton et al., 2020;Diggle & Walker, 2020) and by this many would shun away from disposing off plastics indiscriminately. ...
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Most research findings in Ghana and all over the globe lay much emphasis on the technical knowledge of plastics; especially giving preference to the biodegradable over the synthetic/Single-Use plastics. Questionnaires were administered to about 200 respondents in the Ho Municipality out of which 163 responses were filled and returned. Results showed that of all the variables tested only Legislative Framework has a meaningful impact on the behaviour of Ho indigenes. Awareness level: (Synthetic Plastics and Biodegradable Plastics) as well as Attitudinal Change do not influence people’s behaviour when using plastics. Findings from this study are further discussed and recommendations were proffered to instil eco-friendly behaviour among people.
... Canada has successfully implemented an extended producer responsibility (EPR) strategy following the action towards zero plastic waste under the Ocean Plastics Charter by reducing single-use plastics as food packaging waste derived from these materials comprises one-third of the Canadian municipal solid waste, with a very low recovering rate of 20%. EPR programs require all the stakeholders within the supply chain to collaborate, meaning that manufacturers, producers, regulators, consumers, municipalities, educators, and researchers must be accountable for the design of new environmentally friendly packaging materials (Diggle and Walker, 2020). From a consumer perspective, a study carried out in Canada showed that consumers are highly motivated to reduce their consumption of single-use food packaging plastic, but are not willing to pay for sustainable alternatives, for which they are unaware. ...
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Non-biodegradable plastics have been extensively used for food packaging due to their outstanding properties that preserve food quality during transportation and shelf-life. The global awareness of plastic pollution has led to the development of environmentally friendly technologies for food packaging such as biodegradable polymers, edible films and coatings, and active or smart packaging. However, the petroleum-based polymers market seems not to be interested in setting back and current waste management strategies continue to be deficient in both technical and economic aspects. This work aimed to provide insights into the state-of-the-art technologies for food packaging based on the advances that have been made to improve the moisture, heat, and barrier properties of novel materials that could close the gap to conventional plastics in terms of performance and costs. This literature review takes a multidisciplinary approach, focusing on the required properties of food packaging and the potential impact on the physicochemical properties of food products. The aim is to identify gaps between current technologies and market demand that impede the alignment of the food packaging industry with global environmental policies. Several sustainable packaging options were identified, such as biopolymers like PLA or PBAT. However, most successful packaging solutions are made up of PVA, chitosan, gelatin, or films based on proteins. In both cases, the addition of essential oils, natural extracts, or nanoparticles to the packaging material has demonstrated its effectiveness in improving performance and ensuring food preservation over an extended period on the shelf. However, a significant research gap has been identified regarding the scaling up of packaging materials based on natural polymers, despite the technology appearing to be sufficiently advanced for practical implementation. Hence, it is necessary not only to optimize parameters to enhance functionality and mechanical properties but to demonstrate their feasibility for industrial production. Furthermore, it is essential to assess their environmental impact. It is important to provide evidence of the feasibility of real-world applications of the new materials developed, demonstrating their effectiveness under critical storage conditions for the preservation of different food groups.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a lasting effect on the world and destroyed life everywhere. The worldwide outbreak has increased the demand for single-use plastics, putting an already tremendous strain on the world’s plastic waste problem. The COVID-19 outbreak severely threatens human society and still there is widespread fear. This chapter highlights how COVID-19 fueled an increase in microplastic pollution. This chapter also discusses how microplastics and the SARS-CoV-2 virus are intertwined due to their extensive distribution in our surroundings, and how they influence each other’s actions both inside and outside. Further, the guidelines incorporated by different countries are also discussed.
Sustainability from an economic and environmental perspective is linked to the manner in which we extract and consume the earth's finite resources and is implicit in the definition of a circular economy (CE) as a model of production and consumption designed to retain value within the economic system. This can include conserving natural resources, making sustainable products by incorporating recyclability in product design, changing consumption behaviour, and adopting more sustainable business models. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of objectives for improving health and education, reducing inequality, and protecting our shared environment globally. The CE is a key enabler to achieving these objectives. The Circular Economy explores how the concepts of CE can help address and meet targets linked to the SDGs. Taking a broad view across different industries and areas, and looking at specific SDGs, this book discusses current activities, standards, policy and legislation and challenges to achieving the SDGs as well as opportunities for enhancing circularity and sustainability.
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Extended producer responsibility has been a policy tool for managing solar photovoltaic waste in European Union countries for approximately a decade. Furthermore, EPR has been widely used in many countries for electronic waste and other forms of waste management. Several studies have recommended this tool to sustainably manage solar photovoltaic waste in countries transitioning to large-scale solar energy usage. Nevertheless, implementing a policy tool varies depending on numerous factors, particularly context differences in developed and developing countries. The research on adopting and implementing this tool for solar photovoltaic waste management is limited in developing countries. Bangladesh requires appropriate regulations to manage the impending waste, which will soon encounter substantial end-of-life solar photovoltaic panel volumes. Therefore, this study investigated the adoption and implementation of the extended producer responsibility policy tool within the context of Bangladesh. METHODS: A comprehensive literature review was conducted to identify the enabling and challenging factors influencing the implementation of this tool. Subsequently, a Likert Scale-based questionnaire incorporating the enabling and challenging factors was framed. A survey targeting stakeholders in the solar photovoltaic sector was then performed. Data analysis involved univariate and bivariate analyses, and Bangladesh was selected as a representative developing country for this study. FINDINGS: The results revealed that stakeholders in the solar PV industry significantly emphasized (mean > 3) all enabling factors associated with extended producer responsibility for adoption in their country to manage end-of-life photovoltaic panels. This observation signified the importance of adopting and implementing extended producer responsibility to manage the impending disposal of end-of-life solar photovoltaic panels. Among the enabling factors, the public expense reduction (mean = 3.97), user acceptance (mean = 3.89), eco-design encouragement (mean = 4.02), and the local recycling facility with secondary material market establishments (mean = 3.89) emerged as the most crucial factors. The solar photovoltaic waste-specific regulations (mean = 3.72), the absence of a pre-established collection network (mean = 4.20), and weak institutional capacity (mean = 4.03) were identified as challenging factors requiring special attention during this tool adoption. The inter-item correlation matrix analysis for enabling and challenging factors also demonstrated high significance. Moreover, Cronbach's alpha for enabling and challenging factors were 0.885 and 0.749, respectively. This outcome suggested a good and acceptable internal consistency level among the factors. CONCLUSION: Adopting extended producer responsibility was essential in developing countries to ensure the sustainable management of end-of-life solar photovoltaic panels. Nonetheless, successful implementation required addressing specific domestic concerns, such as the absence of a pre-existing waste take-back system and weak institutional capacity. Regulators should also proactively take measures to leverage enabling factors, including gaining users' acceptance, reducing costs, and potentially tapping into secondary material markets. Consequently, this study can assist in formulating appropriate regulations regarding the sustainable management of hazardous end-of-life solar photovoltaic panels. The findings can be utilized in Bangladesh and other countries encountering similar challenges, contributing to environmental preservation and eco-friendly development.
Rapid economic growth and urbanization have led to significant changes in the world's consumption patterns. Accelerated urbanization, the spread of the mobile Internet, and the increasing pace of work globally have all contributed to the demand for the food takeaway industry. The rapid development of the takeaway industry inevitably brings convenience to life, and with it comes great environmental pressure from waste packaging materials. While maintaining the convenience of people's lives, further reducing the environmental pollution caused by takeaway packaging materials and promoting the recycling and reuse of takeaway packaging waste need to attract the attention and concern of the whole society. This review systematically and comprehensively introduces common takeaway food types and commonly used packaging materials, analyzes the impacts of discarded takeaway packaging materials on human health and the ecological environment, summarizes the formulation and implementation of relevant policies and regulations, proposes treatment methods and resourceful reuse pathways for discarded takeaway packaging, and also provides an outlook on the development of green takeaway packaging. Currently, only 20% of waste packaging materials are recycled worldwide, and there is still a need to develop more green takeaway packaging materials and continuously improve relevant policies and regulations to promote the sustainable development of the takeaway industry. The review is conducive to further optimizing the takeaway packaging management system, alleviating the environmental pollution problem, and providing feasible solutions and technical guidance for further optimizing takeaway food packaging materials and comprehensive utilization of resources.
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Single-use plastics, or SUPs (plastic bags, microbeads, cutlery, straws and polystyrene) are substantial sources of plastic marine pollution, yet preventable via legislative and non-legislative interventions. Various international legislative strategies have been reported to address plastic marine pollution from plastic bags and microbeads, but these have since been accompanied by recent increasing public awareness triggered by international agencies and organizations. The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference highlighted increasing intervention strategies to mitigate SUP pollution. This study presents new multi-jurisdictional legislative interventions to reduce SUPs since 2017 and incorporates emergence of new non-legislative interventions to mitigate other types of SUPs at individual and private-sector levels that complement or influence legislative interventions. Further, effectiveness of SUP bag interventions (e.g., bans vs. levies) to help reduce SUP marine pollution are presented and range between 33-96% reduction in bag use.
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CE has benefitted the global economy for years, including China. For example, developed countries benefitted from cost savings associated with exporting waste to China where there were less stringent Chinese environmental laws, but developed countries failed to incorporate true environmental costs. China also benefitted by importing recyclable waste to supplement its domestic manufacturing industries, yet imported plastic waste was considered inferior, and often unusable (i.e., generating more waste), compared to domestic waste by China's manufacturing industries. In future, the key will be to establish fair-trading systems for waste reutilization across countries globally to reduce waste generation. Firstly, we argue that to reduce waste generation in developed countries, reduced consumption is imperative, since current per capita waste generation in developed countries is much higher than in developing countries. Developed countries, like Canada, need to adopt zero plastic waste strategies by reducing and recycling single-use plastics (Walker and Xanthos, 2018). Secondly, developed countries need to help developing countries deal with their environmental issues, caused by waste reutilization, by transferring waste management and recycling technologies, investing in R&D and training local employees to mitigate potential environmental risks. Thirdly, from a global perspective, implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems across developed and developing countries to help reshape and rebalance the global CE should be undertaken.
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In 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced five themes for Canada's G7 presidency which began in January 2018. Under the "Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy" theme, Canada is hosting domestic and international discussions to advance priorities specifically focusing on oceans. These discussions will bring together experts to discuss challenges and opportunities both domestically and internationally, to move toward zero plastic waste and mitigating marine plastic litter, including microplastics (Government of Canada, 2017). Global marine litter is now recognized as one of the most widespread sources of pollution facing the world's oceans. While plastic is a vital material in our economy, there is now a growing international momentum to rethink all stages of the plastics life-cycle from design, manufacture, use, re-use, end-of-life management, and entry and removal from the environment and to take positive steps towards mitigating marine plastic litter. The current life-cycle approach to plastics is economically wasteful, harms ecosystems, threatens livelihoods and vulnerable communities. Plastic is polluting our oceans, and as much as 80% of all plastic in the oceans is land-based. Plastic in our oceans is having a negative impact on all levels of the food-chain, including humans. In 2010, an estimated 4.8-12.7 Mt of plastics entered the world's oceans (Jambeck et al., 2015). Plastic pollution in the oceans comprises of microplastics (<5 mm diameter) and macroplastics (>5 mm). Microplastics comprise: primary microplastics (microbeads), and secondary microplastics, from degraded macroplastics (plastic bags). Recent studies indicate that microplastics (including degraded macroplastics, microbeads and microplastic fibres) in the marine environment may pose more of a risk than macroplastics. Marine debris and microplastics in our oceans, therefore poses a serious global threat to our environment, economy, navigation and now recognized as a potential threat to human health (Pettipas et al., 2016). Yet marine debris is preventable. Like many countries around the world, Canada needs to act swiftly to curb the vast amounts of plastic waste produced. The urgency of this matter has intensified since China stopped importing recycled film plastic from developed countries (Walker, 2018). Many countries around the world, especially across Europe, have already successfully implemented bans of single-use plastic bags (Xanthos and Walker, 2017). Other policies to reduce single-use plastics include banning plastic drinking straws, deposit and return schemes for plastic bottles and extended producer responsibility (EPR), which makes producers responsible for the entire product life-cycle. Following China's ban on importing recycled film plastic, developed countries, including Canada, now need to develop domestic strategies to move towards zero plastic waste by developing reduction and recycling programs to fill this void in the global circular economy. International governments have struggled for decades to reduce marine plastic debris (Xanthos and Walker, 2017). Signed in 1973, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL 73/78) was designed, among other things, to prevent the disposal of plastics at sea, but the problem of marine debris has worsened, likely because the marine debris problem is related to poor waste management on land (Jambeck et al., 2015). More recently, international tools to reduce plastic waste were developed using the Honolulu Strategy, which is a comprehensive and global management framework to help reduce impacts of marine debris. The strategy has been adapted across the globe to meet specific needs of different countries, such as Canada (Pettipas et al., 2016). Strategies include market-based instruments (e.g., levies on single-use plastic bags) for reducing waste and legislation to reduce marine debris (e.g., imposing bans on single-use plastic microbeads and/or plastic bags). Strategies to reduce use of single-use plastic bags vary in range and scope. International governments have strategies to ban sale of lightweight bags, charge customers for lightweight bags and/or generate taxes from stores who sell them. For example, bans, partial bans, and fees have been enacted by some local jurisdictions in North America, but in most cases, national approaches have been undertaken (e.g., across many European countries) (Xanthos and Walker, 2017). Similarly, federal bans for single-use microbeads have been implemented successfully in other countries and the Canadian federal government classified plastic microbeads as a toxin under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. On January 1, 2018, the Canadian federal government banned wash-off toiletries and cosmetics containing microbeads from stores in Canada (Pettipas et al., 2016). Initial studies on the efficacy of bans or levies of single-use plastic bags have been encouraging. For example, following the introduction of the five pence levy in England, plastic bag use at major supermarkets dropped by 85%; equivalent to approximately six billion fewer bags issued during the first year of implementation (Xanthos and Walker, 2017). Although plastic waste management in Canada is the purview of municipalities, we recommend that the Canadian government seriously consider a federal ban of single-use plastics (including single-use plastic bags and other items such as, plastic drinking straws, plastic cutlery, and plastic packaging). Whilst several municipalities across Canada have successfully implemented bans for plastic bags, other municipalities are still debating the issue (see, for example We argue that a federal ban will be much more effective than ad hoc bans across different municipalities. Canada's G7 presidency provides a unique opportunity to accelerate domestic action and demonstrate international leadership to reduce use and recycling of single-use plastics and ameliorate marine pollution caused by plastic litter. Therefore, we urge the Canadian federal government to ban as many single-use plastics as is practical and develop strategies to recycle domestic single-use plastic items, where alternatives cannot be sourced, as soon as possible.
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Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations require that producers organize and pay for treatment and recycling of waste arising from their products at end of life. EPR has been effective in implementing some aspects of circular economy. In Europe, 35% of e-waste and 65% of packaging waste have already been recycled (or reused in some cases). This article analyzes the challenges of implementing EPR and provides useful insights for what has worked well and what challenges remain. Identifying and addressing these challenges will be crucial for framing legislation that will move industry and society toward a more circular economy.
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China’s ban on imports of recycled plastic from developed countries takes effect this month. It could be a game changer if it weans us off plastic and forces us to seek sustainable alternatives. With no suitable strategies in place for dealing with this extra unexpected plastic, countries must quickly devise and implement alternative waste-management solutions (see also C. M. Rochman et al. Nature 494, 169–171; 2013). Many jurisdictions have legislation that prohibits dumping of plastic waste into landfill. And stockpiling plastic refuse is ill-advised, given the fire risk at storage sites (see, for example, Moves to change consumer behaviour and implement strategies to cut plastic usage are gaining momentum. International policies and financial disincentives to curb the proliferation of single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are already showing positive results (D. Xanthos and T. R. Walker Mar. Pollut. Bull. 118, 17–26; 2017). These should be extended to include a ban on other items such as plastic drinking straws, and by widely introducing deposit-and-return schemes for plastic bottles.
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Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
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Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii) education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.
Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.