Food In Canada

Packaging: Collaborating and supporting Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste Plan

By Carol Zweep   

Packaging Regulation Sustainability circular economy Editor pick plastic packaging

Photo © Melena-Nsk / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In the past several years, there have been numerous Canadian government initiatives to address plastic waste. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) put forward a Canada-wide Strategy and Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste in 2018 and 2019 that takes a circular economy approach to plastics. This plan was adopted by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Keeping all plastics in the economy and out of the environment will involve activities such as prevention, collection, clean-up, and value recovery.

In 2022, CCME released “A Roadmap to Strengthen the Management of Single-use and Disposable Plastics”. The Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, which was published in June 2022, prohibits the manufacture, import and sale of single-use plastics (e.g. checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws). In November 2023, the Federal Court overturned the ban on single-use plastic based on the decision that the classification of plastics was too broad to be listed on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In April 2023, the Recycled Content and Labelling for Plastic Products Regulations were proposed alongside the release of a paper outlining reporting requirements to the Federal Plastics Registry. The proposed regulations would require minimum levels of recycled post-consumer plastics in packaging (food contact packaging excluded except for beverage containers) and require accurate information on recyclability labelling and restrictions on the use of the term, ‘compostable.’ Provinces and territories are looking to expand recycling collection programs to support these regulations, which include developing and implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies. The EPR approach makes the producer responsible for the collection and management of packaging at the end of life. The Federal Plastics Registry will require producers of certain categories of plastics to submit annual reports with information on plastic product resin types and amount of plastic waste sent to disposal.

P2 Notice


To continue bringing forward new measures to manage plastic waste, the federal government introduced a consultation document regarding a proposed pollution prevention notice (P2 notice) to reduce the environmental impact of primary food plastic packaging. The notice would require large grocery retailers in Canada to prepare, implement, and report on a pollution prevention plan to reduce plastic waste and shift to a circular economy. The goal of the P2 notice is to reduce primary plastic food packaging by eliminating unnecessary/hard-to-recycle items. All companies along the entire value chain (retailers, producers, and brand owners) would need to work together to meet the P2 notice objectives. Initial input from stakeholders on the consultation document ended on August 30, 2023. The government is analyzing the comments and continues to welcome additional feedback as the P2 notice is developed. A draft P2 notice will be issued for public comment before finalization.

The many new policies and regulations are complex with nuances that are providing real challenges to the food industry. These challenges are being addressed by designing packages for recycling or reuse, improving recycling system infrastructure, and increasing the availability of more recycled food-grade plastic resin. The P2 notice is part of federal government’s ambitious Action Plan of Zero Plastic Waste. Collaborative effort along with support from all levels of government, industry and citizens is needed to achieve a circular economy with less plastic waste.

Carol Zweep is the research lead, packaging, at Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab, Conestoga College.

This column was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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