June 7, 2018 (OTTAWA) – On the eve of the G7 Summit meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec, environmental groups are calling on Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to crack down on plastic pollution.

“Plastic pollution is consuming our oceans, poisoning wildlife, and contaminating our food chain,” said Ecojustice lawyer James Gunvaldsen Klaassen. “It is time for Canada to use the legal tools it has at hand to reduce plastic production, waste, and pollution.”

A request filed by Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Citizens’ Network on Waste Management, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Living Oceans Society, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, and Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), urges Minister McKenna to add plastics — including microplastics, microfibers and single-use plastics — to the Priority substances list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA, 1999). The Minister is required by law to respond within 90 days to today’s request.

Inclusion of plastics on CEPA’s Priority Substance List would require the Minister to formally assess the harm caused by plastic pollution and is the first step toward restricting or banning specific classes of plastic products and packaging. “Corporations have created and continue to perpetuate an addiction to plastic that comes at a steep cost to the environment,” said Farrah Khan, of Greenpeace Canada. “The earth cannot digest plastic, so plastic pollution simply accumulates and persists in our environment for centuries, contaminating waterways, biodiversity, and our bodies.”

In Canada, less than 11 per cent of plastic is recycled. Plastic microfibers have been found in rivers, lakes and oceans — and as a result, our drinking water and food. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastics in our oceans than fish.

“Many coastal communities rely on marine ecosystems for their livelihood,” said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre. “With Canada’s marine health at risk as a result of plastic pollution, we must do more to protect the biodiversity of our oceans.”

International efforts are being undertaken to resolve this global crisis, including the European Union’s recent proposal to ban microplastics.

“Along with the rest of the world, Canada now finds itself in a plastics crisis that without action, will only get worse,” said Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager for Environmental Defence. “By calling on Canada to get tough on plastic pollution, we hope to see stronger laws put in place that will hold industry and businesses accountable for their mess and keep our waters clean. The time for the government to act is now.”

“Marine as well as freshwater systems like the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin are under assault from plastics and their additives heedlessly produced, and unceremoniously dumped, in the environment. The toll on present and future generations of humans, fish, and wildlife is incalculable. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act provides the authority and the instruments necessary to address this emerging crisis in Canada. It is past due for the federal government to take up the challenge,” said CELA lawyer Joseph Castrilli.

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BACKGROUND

• The G7 Summit meeting will be held June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec. One of the five governing themes of this year’s meeting is, Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy, with discussion set to tackle the troubling state of marine health and the urgent need to improve it.

• On May 28, 2018 the EU formally proposed a ban on a variety of single use plastics, calling in part for the collection and recycling of nearly all plastic bottles by 2025.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, Lawyer | Ecojustice
902-417-1700 ext. 642
jgunvaldsenklaassen@ecojustice.ca

Elaine MacDonald, Program Director, Healthy Communities | Ecojustice
416-368-7533 ext. 527, mobile 416-564-4400
emacdonald@ecojustice.ca

Joseph Castrilli, Counsel / Fe de Leon, Researcher and Paralegal | CELA
416-960-2284 ext. 7223
castrillij@sympatico.ca and deleonf@cela.ca

John Jackson, Coordinator | Citizens’ Network on Waste Management
519-744-7503
jjackson@web.ca

Brendan Glausner, Communications Manager | David Suzuki Foundation
604-356-8829
bGlausner@davidsuzuki.org

Mark Butler, Executive Director | Ecology Action Center
902-266-5401
action@ecologyaction.ca

Sarah Jamal, Toxics Program Coordinator | Environmental Defence
905-921-7786 (cell), 416-323-9521 ext. 251 (work)
sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca

Camille Gagné-Raynauld | Équiterre
514-605-2000
cgraynauld@equiterre.org

Farrah Khan, Campaigner, Arctic and Plastics | Greenpeace
647-886-2189
farrah.khan@greenpeace.org

Karen Wristen, Executive Director | Living Oceans Society
604-788-5634
kwristen@livingoceans.org

Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director | Sierra Club Foundation
902- 444 -7096
gretchenf@sierraclub.ca

Emily Alfred, Waste Campaigner | Toronto Environmental Alliance
416-543-1542
emily@torontoenvironment.org