Canada wants more recycled content, tougher labeling rules

Canada's government wants new mandates on post-consumer content in plastics packaging and higher standards for marketing plastics as recyclable, actions it said are needed to boost markets and address consumer concerns over greenwashing.

A draft proposal in April from the agency Environment and Climate Change Canada would set recycled content requirements between 30 and 60 percent by 2030 for a wide range of plastic packaging.

As well, it would adopt an 80 percent threshold for products to be marketed as recyclable, requiring that eight in 10 Canadians have access to recycling as well as mandating that 80 percent of the waste plastic delivered to a recycling plant becomes resin that could displace virgin plastic.

By comparison, the U.S. environmental marketing Green Guides generally require 60 percent public access to make recyclability claims.

Like Canada, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also rewriting its rules, with some groups urging Washington to be much tougher on plastics claims. Canada's rule writing process is further along.

"We must find a way to keep plastics out of the environment," said Steven Guilbeault, minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada. "That means requiring minimum recycled content in certain types of plastic packaging and providing Canadians with clearer labeling and better transparency, to help people better understand what they are buying and determine whether those plastics can be properly recycled in their community."

As well, Canada's plan proposes a three-tiered system for using the "chasing arrows" symbol and resin identification codes. ECCC noted some pushback around its labeling plans in a report earlier this year.

The proposal said that less than 14 percent of plastics packaging and single-use plastics are currently recycled in the country, but it sets targets for 90 percent of plastics packaging to be collected and, when accounting for yield loss in sorting and processing, that 65 percent can be recycled.

The agency is taking public comments on its framework document until May 18 and expects to issue detailed draft rules by the end of the year.

On recycled content, it would set up a phased-in process between 2026 and 2030 that ends with 60 percent recycled content in beverage bottles, rigid PET and high density polyethylene containers and other rigids, including packaging from polypropylene, polystyrene and expanded PS.

For flexible packaging, it proposes varying requirements between 35 percent and 50 percent recycled content by 2030, depending on the thickness of the material. Generally, requirements on flexibles start to kick-in in 2028.

It would exempt various medical, pesticide and hazardous material packaging, as well as foams where no alternative material exists.

» Publication Date: 10/05/2023

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