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Environment ministers complete action plan on zero plastic waste


July 28, 2020
By Ground Water Canada

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Federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers recently released the final phase of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste, which aims to keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

They had approved the strategy in principle in November 2018.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the key role of some plastics in saving lives and minimizing the spread of disease with personal protective equipment,” said Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Environment, who hosted his colleagues by teleconference. “However, the end-of-life management of plastics presents significant challenges and as environment ministers, we are taking ambitious actions to reduce and prevent plastic pollution.”

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According to the ministers, plastics need to be managed within a circular economy in order to prevent them from going to landfills or becoming litter in the environment. Plastic pollution threatens the health of Canada’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. With the longest coastline in the world, and being home to vast marine and freshwater resources, collective efforts across Canada to reduce plastic pollution will have an international impact.

The second phase of the action plan gives timelines for co-ordinated action to manage plastic waste from aquatic activities, including fishing and aquaculture; to advance science to better understand and monitor the impacts of plastics pollution; to support capture, cleanup and prevention of plastic pollution; and to build awareness.

The plan will be carried out collaboratively and within the jurisdictional authority of each order of government by 2025. It recognizes the shared responsibility among jurisdictions for preventing plastic waste and seeks to help them implement actions to meet their needs. It also recognizes the roles of industry, communities and consumers in reaching zero plastic waste.

The plan was released following a discussion of how action on environmental priorities across Canada will contribute to the economic recovery as the country eases restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers discussed a range of environmental priorities including climate change, plastic waste, and a transition to a circular economy. They devoted a major portion of their meeting to sharing perspectives and strategies for a sustainable post-pandemic recovery. Ministers expressed support for creating jobs and long-term economic prosperity in every part of the country as part of a Canada-wide response to the impacts of COVID-19, while maintaining their commitment to a low-carbon economy and building resilience to climate change.

At the end of the meeting, New Brunswick assumed the presidency of CCME and will host the 2021 CCME meeting.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment is the primary minister-led intergovernmental forum for collective action on environmental issues of national and international concern. CCME is comprised of the environment ministers from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. It was founded in 1964.