K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – At noon today environmental groups are rolling out a carpet covered with plastic litter for delegates to Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) which is taking place at the Halifax Convention Centre on June 26 and 27. The groups are urging the Federal Government and ministers in attendance to act swiftly to implement a comprehensive Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, including single-use plastic bans.
“We are rolling out the plastic carpet to remind ministers of the urgency of the plastic crisis and the need for all governments and parties to support the swift implementation of a strong plan to reduce plastics,” says Mark Butler, Policy Director at the Ecology Action Centre.
The carpet is littered with waste coffee cups, pop bottles, cigarette butts, fishing gear, tampon applicators, chip bags and other plastic items gathered during a shoreline cleanup in Halifax Harbour on June 15. Volunteers gathered 250 pounds of plastic from 650 metres of shoreline; an amount which is particularly shocking given that volunteers cleaned up the same stretch of shore line in September 2018. The plastics found on the carpet are among those commonly found polluting Canada’s natural environments.
On Monday June 10, the Prime Minister and federal Environment and Climate Change Minister announced a plan to ban single use plastics and bring in Extended Producer Responsibility for the plastics we currently use. The news was met with guarded optimism by the environmental and science community who have sought additional information about how and when the announcement would be translated into action.
“The federal Government’s announcement was great, but at the moment it’s still just words,” said Vito Buonsante, Plastics Program Manager at Environmental Defence Canada. “If Canada is serious about preventing more and more plastics from piling up in our lakes, parks and oceans, we need to see immediate action on identifying plastic waste as toxic and regulating a ban under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).”
Over a year ago, various environmental groups asked the federal government to use CEPA to regulate plastics. Designating a substance as toxic under CEPA can unlock a range of regulatory options, including a ban on various single-use plastics. The call for listing plastic waste as Toxic under CEPA was recently echoed by a group of environmental lawyers. The federal government has said it is completing a scientific assessment as part of the listing process to determine whether plastic should be listed as toxic.
“Not only is plastic a massive pollutant, but we know it’s toxic to human health, lethal to wildlife and a significant contributor to the climate crisis,” said Sarah King, Head of Greenpeace Canada’s Oceans & Plastics campaign. “Every minute that action is delayed, corporations pump out millions of throwaway, toxic plastics. Governments must create the conditions for a new, plastic-free future by drawing a line in the plastic-filled sand.”
In Atlantic Canada, fishing gear is a big component of the marine debris littering the region’s shoreline.
“Most of today’s fishing gear is plastic,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Recycling programs and associated infrastructure for fishing gear, such as rope, nets and traps are urgently required.”
The CCME is expected to release an actionable plan at this week’s meeting, based on the National Zero Plastic Waste Strategy it announced in November 2018. This would complement the promised federal ban and address matters within provincial jurisdiction. Nova Scotia is the current chair of the CCME, which is composed of the federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers.
The plastic-covered carpet will be rolled out today at noon at the entrance to Rogers Square in anticipation of the Ministers’ arrival.
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre
For interviews in English or French:
Communications Manager, Environmental Defence
Head of Oceans & Plastics campaign, Greenpeace Canada
Communications Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation
416-348-9885 x 1583