The Canada Plastic Ban Breakdown

A complete and updated overview of the Canada plastic ban.

In 2021, Canada took a major step forward in the fight against plastic pollution by announcing the single-use plastic ban, with the goal of reaching zero plastic waste by 2030.

*Last updated: December 11th, 2023

What is the Canada single-use plastic ban?

The ban defines single-use plastic as a product made from polystyrene (PS) that is discarded after one use.

However, the classification of what kinds of single-use plastic fall under regulations isn’t so straightforward, and the list of restricted plastics isn’t exhaustive.

Ultimately, any product not made of specifically mentioned plastics will need to be tested thoroughly before it can be manufactured, imported, and sold.

plastic fork under water, single-use plastic ban

What are the 6 Canada plastic ban categories?

The Government of Canada has created regulations that prohibit the sale, import, and manufacture of single-use plastics. The single-use plastic ban is divided into 6 categories.

  • Cutlery
    • Forks
    • Spoons
    • Sporks
    • Knives
    • Chopsticks
  • Foodservice ware made from or containing hard to recycle plastics
    • Clamshell containers
    • Lidded containers
    • Boxes
    • Cups
    • Plates
    • Bowls
  • Stir sticks
    • Including stoppers
  • Checkout bags
  • Straws (with some exceptions)
  • Ring carriers

What is the timeline for the Canada plastic ban?

Each category has a different timeline, but the ban will cover all categories by 2025, with the goal of being plastic waste free by 2030.

Most single-use plastic that is part of the ban can no longer be manufactured and imported for sale as of December 20, 2022. Ring carriers are following suit and will be prohibited on June 20, 2023. 

Starting December 20, 2023, the ban will prohibit the sale of checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, and straws. The ban on ring carriers will take effect half a year later, on June 20, 2024.

Lastly, Canada’s plastic ban will prohibit manufacture, import, and sale for export on December 20, 2025. This includes all six categories of single-use plastic.

Federal Court overturns Canada plastic ban: What’s next?

In a recent ruling, the Federal Court overturned Canada’s single-use plastic ban due to concerns over the broad definition of “toxic” plastics, calling it “unreasonable and unconstitutional.” The decision challenges the initial scope and regulatory overreach under the Canada Environmental Protection Act’s toxic substances list. With the current policy’s boundaries in question, restaurants across Canada are unsure if they will need to pivot once again.

But despite the ruling, the federal ban is still set to take effect on December 20th as discussions continue.

What are the exceptions to Canada’s plastic ban?

The six categories in the single-use plastic ban have a few exceptions, notably plastic straws, checkout bags, and ring carriers.

Plastic Straw Exceptions

The regulations ban single-use plastic straws, no matter the material, including compostable, biodegradable, and non-conventional straws.

The exception to the Canada plastic ban is flexible straws. These straws will continue to circulate for those with disabilities or medical needs. 

Retailers may sell packages of 20 straws or more to customers upon request. Businesses cannot display the packages, and customers do not have to show documentation proving a disability or medical concern to purchase them.

Plastic straws that come with beverages, like juice boxes, are also an exception. The ban will prohibit the sale of beverage containers packaged with single-use straws in June 2024.

colourful plastic straws

Checkout Bag Exceptions

The regulations define checkout bags as a bag made entirely or in part from plastic, meant to carry purchased goods. This includes grocery stores, retail stores, and similar businesses.

The single-use plastic ban strictly prohibits checkout bags, but there are other plastic bags that the regulations haven’t banned.

Produce bags found in grocery stores used for packaging fruit, vegetables, meats, fish, prepared foods, and loose bulk food are still acceptable.

Compost, recycling, and garbage bags will also continue to circulate. The ban also allows bags meant to wrap flowers/plants, protect newspapers, cover laundry, and protect tires.

Ring Carrier Exceptions

Ring carriers are flimsy plastic rings that hold cans together, also known as six-pack rings.

Due to how they are manufactured, ring carriers severely impact our wildlife and marine life when they aren’t disposed of properly.

The Canada plastic ban covers pliable ring carriers, but excludes rigid versions of beverage holders. This kind of ring carrier is made from stiff plastic and isn’t easily deformed. They usually snap on the top of cans or have bendable teeth to keep them in place.

Because this kind of plastic isn’t as likely to harm wildlife, it doesn’t fall under the single-use plastic ban.

What specific plastics are part of the ban?

The Canada plastic ban prohibits two main kinds of plastic: polystyrene and polyethylene. These kinds of plastic are often in products from each of the six categories.

It doesn’t matter if the single-use plastic item is made entirely from or in combination with PS or PE. If either plastic is present in the product, it is part of the ban.

Foodservice Ware

The regulations define foodservice ware as containers designed for serving or transporting ready-to-consume food or beverage. The consumer’s intention makes no difference, whether they eat out of the container or transfer their food onto a plate. 

When it comes to foodservice ware specifically, there are a few more kinds of plastic that the single-use plastic ban prohibits. This includes expanded and extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black (a kind of plastic that contains black pigment), and oxo-degradable plastic.

Foodservice ware made from non-banned plastics will need to be tested to determine if the container contains oxo-degradable plastic or carbon black. 

Rows of plastic bottles, single-use plastic ban

How does the Canada plastic ban affect reusable plastics?

Canada’s plastic ban classifies any plastic that isn’t made of polystyrene, polyethylene, or other prohibited plastics as reusable.

The regulations discuss performance criteria for reusable plastics for certain categories. They can continue to be manufactured, imported, and sold if they can withstand the requirements.

Checkout Bags

The single-use plastic ban divides regulations for checkout bags into two categories: plastic and fabric.

While many may reuse their checkout bags as garbage or lunch bags, the ban does not classify them as reusable. This is because they are flimsy, easily torn, and are generally only reused once.

Fabric checkout bags are created from a woven material that’s produced from or combined with a textile fibre. They often contain plastic but can still be manufactured, imported, and sold so long as they comply with Canada’s plastic ban standards:

The fabric bag must not break or tear when carrying 10kg across 53 meters 100 times. It should also be able to endure washing without breaking or tearing.

Plastic Cutlery

The cutlery will also have to pass performance testing. Plastic utensils must withstand 100 cycles in a household electric dishwasher without changing shape. If they melt or warp, then it falls under Canada’s plastic ban.

There are certain types of single-use plastic cutlery that are not part of the ban. They can continue to be manufactured, imported, and sold so long as the plastic is thick and not made of polystyrene or polyethylene. 

Polylactic acid (PLA) is often used to make single-use plastic cutlery, but the regulations mention that Environment Canada doesn’t believe it can withstand the performance criteria. 

Plastic grocery bag, single-use plastic ban

What does this mean for bioplastics?

Non-conventional plastics, biodegradable plastics, and compostable plastics are not prohibited by the single-use plastic ban. 

These plastics contain additives that help them decompose or break down. However, only the bio parts of bioplastic will degrade, leaving microplastics behind.

Bioplastics can be used to manufacture any single-use item from the list of six categories, as long as they are properly tested.

Products must be able to withstand 100 cycles in a household electric dishwasher. If they change their shape in any way, they will be subject to the regulations.

The government may also prepare other tests that manufacturers must comply with as the ban comes into place over the next few years.

What are eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic?

With Canada’s plastic ban prohibiting checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, ring carriers, and straws, we have the opportunity to choose greener options.

While there may be certain kinds of plastics that can be used to manufacture single-use products, the intention of the ban is clear: take the eco-friendly route.

It’s only a matter of time before the regulations ban all single-use plastic, so why not get ahead of the game?

Bioplastics may seem like the answer as they don’t fall under the single-use plastic ban regulations, should they withstand testing. But non-conventional or compostable plastics have their drawbacks.

Even though bioplastic can be composted, it often isn’t, as it is hard to distinguish from regular plastic. And if depots find bioplastic in compost and can’t differentiate it from plastic, it goes to the landfill.

Non-conventional plastics may be more eco-friendly than regular plastics, but they aren’t the most sustainable alternative.

The best options to replace single-use plastic are wood, moulded fibre, and paper. These materials are eco-friendly, completely compostable, and won’t harm our planet.

Checkout Bags

Paper and reusable bags are the most common alternatives to single-use plastic bags. 

Reusable bags should not contain prohibited plastics, must withstand being washed, and be capable of carrying 10 kg worth of product. 

Paper bags are also a great alternative to plastic, as they can be recycled or composted at home.

Bins or boxes are another option, much like the boxes Costco offers, as they can be reused or disposed of easily. Plastic and collapsible bins can also be used and are easy to store.

plastic cutlery scattered across green grass

Cutlery

Primarily used with takeout and delivery meals, 4.5 billion pieces of single-use plastic cutlery are sold in Canada yearly. 

While certain plastics can be deemed “reusable” and are not restricted by the single-use plastic ban, many consumers will only use restaurant-provided cutlery once. 

The most sustainable alternative to single-use plastic is wood. 

It’s 100% compostable, can be sustainably sourced, and won’t leave toxic chemicals or microplastics behind. Wood cutlery will break down in 180 days, whether in compost or landfill.

Straws

Most beverages don’t require straws to drink. Unless needed for medical or disability reasons, consumers won’t need a straw when drinking from a glass in a restaurant.

And for to-go drinks like coffee or tea, strawless or fibre lids are available. 

Foodservice Ware, Ring Carriers, and Stir Sticks

According to the regulations, foodservice ware can be replaced with recyclable plastic containers or containers that don’t include any prohibited plastics. Another option is fibre-based containers that are 100% compostable and made from sugarcane fibres. 

Ring carriers can be replaced with cardboard boxes, rigid ring carriers, or eco-friendly ring carriers made from natural fibres.

And wood can replace single-use plastic stir sticks. Like cutlery, it is 100% compostable and can be sustainably sourced. 

plastic water bottle on the beach

How to find a reputable supplier of eco-friendly single-use products

When switching to eco-friendly single-use alternatives, you’ll want to use a reputable supplier.

Regulations that prove the compostability of products have yet to come into effect, so research will be key to finding the best single-use plastic replacements.

Look for a supplier with certifications, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). Certifications will help prove that the supplier is producing products in an environmental manner.

Next, choose a company that specializes in eco-friendly products. These businesses are dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability and are more likely to produce products that are truly eco-friendly.

If you’re looking for a supplier that checks all those boxes, why not explore your options with Origin Sustainables?

Ready to help you down the eco-friendly route without disruption, our products are 100% compostable, biodegradable, and plastic ban approved. 

The clock is running out on single-use plastics. It’s time to make the switch to an environmentally friendly alternative. 

Origin Sustainables is here to help. Are you ready to go green?

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