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Moving Canada toward zero plastic waste

Plastics are part of the everyday lives of most Canadians. Globally, since the 1950s, plastics production has increased more than any other manufactured material, thanks to their low cost, durability and utility. But the amount of plastic designed to be used once and then thrown away leads to a significant waste of resources and energy—and the litter can pollute our environment and pile up in our landfills.

Around the world, people and companies throw away between $100 and $150 billion worth of plastic packaging each year. Plastic waste and marine litter, including microplastics (particles of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm), pose a serious threat to the health of our oceans, waterways and well-being.

Marine litter is a global problem: it’s also found on all of Canada’s coasts and in freshwater areas, including the Great Lakes.

It’s time to take action – together, we can eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter in Canada.

Did you know?

  • Most marine litter (about 80%) enters the water from land

  • Each year, globally, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans

  • This is like dumping the content of one garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute

  • At this rate, plastics could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050

  • More than 600 marine species are harmed by marine litter and at least 15% of those are endangered

  • It’s estimated that less than 11% of plastics are recycled in Canada – similar to the global rate of about 9%

  • Worldwide, roughly 90% of new plastic products are made from fossil fuels

  • Recycling 1 tonne of plastics prevents up to 2 tonnes of carbon pollution

  • In 2010, Canada released about 8,000 tonnes of plastic waste into waterways – that’s as heavy as 75 Blue Whales

  • Since 1994, 700,000 volunteers have collected over 1.2 million kg of waste from shorelines across Canada while participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup



Join in: how to participate

Individuals can make a big difference by reducing the amount of single-use plastic products they use (like disposable coffee cup lids, straws and packaging) – but we also need to take action as a country.

That’s why the federal government, through Environment and Climate Change Canada, is asking Canadians to share their ideas and suggestions, through email, mail and PlaceSpeak, an online engagement platform. Your feedback will help develop a federal-provincial-territorial approach to manage plastic waste and reduce marine litter.

To learn how we will protect your privacy during this consultation, read our privacy statement.

More information:

Visit Environment Canada's website for more.