Canada’s Strategy to Eliminate Plastic Waste

The Turning Point report may be the most important document ever prepared by Canadian sustainability experts aimed at solving the global plastic pollution crisis. The report was prepared by The Expert Panel on the Circular Economy in Canada. It was commissioned by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) and sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Canada. This report offers guidance on how the Canadian government and Canadian industry must transition away from the traditional “take-make-use-waste” linear economy toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

The project was undertaken with the approval of the Board of Directors of the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA). Board members are drawn from the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), as well as from the general public. The members of the Expert Panel responsible for the report were selected by CCA for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.  This report was prepared in response to a request from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Humanity’s current level of consumption is exceeding Earth’s ability to sustain it. In the current “take-make-use-waste” linear economy, raw materials are extracted to produce goods that are used and then discarded as waste. Though much of what we discard still holds value, just a small portion of materials is cycled back into the economy. The vast majority ends up in landfills, incinerated, or is released into the environment.

The linear economic model of “take, make, use, waste” is no longer viable. Although it has generated an enormous amount of wealth, it has also contributed to excessive extraction of natural resources and accumulation of waste. The linear production system is pushing the planet past its ecological limits and regenerative abilities. As well, it is exacerbating social injustices through the inequitable impact of pollution and distribution of wealth.

The Turning Point report presents a positive alternative for Canada to move forward in addressing these environmental, social, and economic challenges. The circular economy has the ability not only to ease the ecological crisis, but also to create jobs and mitigate social injustices, while allowing Canada to remain economically competitive. The circular economy is increasingly viewed as a desirable future for all economies, and Canada is well positioned to make the transition by coupling a national strategy with regional ventures.

Interest in the circular economy is exploding, and its body of work is growing rapidly.

The circular economy is an imperative. Only 6.1% of materials entering the Canadian economy come from recycled sources. This statistic warrants a pause. It means that Canada requires the extraction or import of new material to meet almost 94% of its manufacturing needs, with most material accumulating as either passive infrastructure or as waste. For Canada to maintain its strong economy and global competitiveness, meet its commitments to reducing carbon emissions and maintaining biodiversity, and keep its people prosperous and healthy, it is critical that Canada’s economy to become more circular.

The circular economy calls for systems change. Given the obvious benefits of the circular economy, we may ask why Canada’s economy is not more circular. This is because transitioning from a linear economy to a circular one requires most economic and social systems to change. Governments will need to embrace innovative policy measures and to coordinate the collection, pricing, and reuse of waste across all levels and jurisdictions. Businesses will need to adopt new business models and rework their supply chains. People will need to consume, use, reuse, and access services in new ways. As well, the circular economy will inevitably create winners and losers, and such shifts are especially difficult in an economy that is grounded in natural resource extraction. However, these systems can be changed—not through the action of any single actor, but by everyone coming together and playing a part.

Hitfar Concepts – Eco-Train’s distribution partner for the Phone Case Recovery program in 2020.

Interest in the circular economy is exploding, and its body of work is growing rapidly.

The circular economy is urgent. As this report was going to print, the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report, which was called “code red for humanity” by the UN Secretary-General. The climate is changing at a faster rate than previously reported, and northern countries, such as Canada, will experience particularly severe impacts. Climate change is attributable to industrial production and the use and discharge of fossil fuels. It is not only imperative that Canada’s economy become more circular, but that it do so quickly.

Some of the most pressing policy challenges facing society today have to do with the state of the planet. Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and stress on water and other resources may be environmental issues as we typically think of them, but their impacts are not isolated to just the environment. They affect every aspect of business and life.

There is growing awareness and engagement among various government departments and other stakeholders that solutions to these issues will require collaborative approaches and that siloed methods are no longer viable. The circular economy is a paradigm example of this multi-pronged approach. It necessitates participation from all sectors, including governments, businesses, and civil society.

Turning Point, provides an overview of the circular economy and its current state in Canada, including some of the tools and approaches for measuring it in practice.

Read the full report here –

Source – Turning Point – The Expert Panel on the Circular Economy

Council of Canadian Academies (CCA). 2021

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