EcoSafe Explained: Canada's Single-Use Plastic Ban
Is Canada banning compostable bags?
Long story short, no. Only compostable checkout bags are affected.
A few years ago, EcoSafe launched a compostable checkout bag intended to be an environmentally friendly option to carry your groceries or takeout. Once at home, it can be reused and finally repurposed as a compost bin liner. It’s end-of-life is designed to be composted within commercial food scrap collection programs.
Environment and Climate Change Canada will be putting into effect the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations as of Dec 20, 2023. These regulations will officially prohibit the sale of plastic checkout bags – the plastic bag with handles that you typically pay 10 cents for at the grocery store.
The reason? These regulations are part of the department’s plan to address pollution and prevent plastic waste. The concern is that these plastic bags can end up in the wild, according to a CBC report. This poses a threat to wildlife and the environment. Unfortunately, in this regulation, compostable checkout bags are being lumped in as a single-use plastic bag for the same reason without considering the significantly larger benefits that they can have for organics diversion.
Our line of certified compostable bags and liners can still be purchased and used as a food scrap collection tool. In fact, none of the 19 different liners we offer to fit in almost any kitchen green bin are part of Canada’s single-use plastics ban even though they are extremely similar in design and identical in makeup.
It’s important to note that conventional plastics are different, are toxic, and are very harmful to human and planet health. Compostable bags, on the other hand, are a subset of bioplastic. The main purpose for certified compostable bags is to reduce plastic contamination and increase feedstock for composters, while making it easy for waste generators to separate food scraps. We inevitably need more access to commercial composting systems to process food scraps and compostable bags. If we want to close the loop on food waste reduction, reduce landfill methane emissions, and save landfill space, compostable checkout bags being included in this regulation is working against us.
As we are in a time of creation and transition, regulations like this don’t acknowledge the new solutions intended to make composting accessible while supporting the marketplace in food recovery.
To succeed with a proper single-use plastics ban across Canada, we advocate for an amendment that advances an approach on how to address certified compostable film products.
Our products go through rigorous end-of-life testing to be certified compostable. Every compostable product that we sell is BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) certified to meet the ASTM D6400 standards specification. We’ve taken it a step further by field testing our products with the CMA (Compost Manufacturing Alliance). CMA approval further confirms that our products fully decompose by testing them in the most commonly used compost facility types in North America. We invite composters to contact us for free samples for testing.
Update: November 20, 2023
A federal court ruling has determined that the classification of plastics as “toxic” was too broad. Although it was scientifically proven that the material is harmful, it didn’t assess the risks of plastics ending up in the environment. As a result of this ruling, the single-use plastic ban has been lifted for now. Speculation exists that says the government may appeal the ruling, and many large retailers have already committed to staying on course with their elimination of single-use plastics despite the ruling.
EcoSafe’s perspective is that this ruling is not a win for the environment. Even though we disagreed with compostable film being included in the ban, the general move towards eliminating single-use, non-compostable plastics was still a step in the right direction. We will be following the progress of this issue closely.
EcoSafe is always willing to work with government, policymakers, and composters to ensure our products are contributing to the greater vision of making composting second nature. We hope that we can have a greater opportunity to share our expertise in the future.
If you have questions for our team at EcoSafe, reach out directly to our Sustainability Programs Manager at [email protected]. We appreciate your time in understanding the transition we are experiencing across the country; our team promises to update you as regulations are updated.