The government will appeal a federal court ruling which undermined the cabinet order responsible for Canada's ban on single-use plastics, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced on Monday.
Federal judge Angela Furlanetto ruled last Thursday that Guilbeault's order labelling all plastic products as toxic was both unreasonable and unconstitutional. Furlanetto said that Ottawa had gone too far in labelling all plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
In his immediate reaction Thursday night, Guilbeault had said that the government was "strongly considering" an appeal.
The judge's decision said that there is no evidence that the thousands of different items in that category all harm human health or the environment, given their different uses and chemical compositions.
However, the ruling itself did not 'undo' the ban on the manufacturing and importation of six specific single-use plastics that Canadians might be most familiar with, including stir sticks, straws, grocery bags, cutlery, takeout containers and six-pack beverage rings.
The designation of toxicity was required for the government to regulate plastic products. Guilbeault said he's determined to make sure the government does not have to roll back the federal regulations. “The body of scientific evidence showing the impacts on human health, on the environment, of plastic pollution is undebatable,” he said.
Furlanetto's decision leaves room for the government to designate the individual items as toxic, rather than all plastic manufactured items. Guilbeault had argued that those six items were chosen because they already have market alternatives and are among the most common items. According to Global News, they represent 3% of plastic waste.
The Liberals say their aim is to eliminate plastic waste by 2030, taking items that are difficult to recycle out of circulation while ensuring the rest are recyclable or reusable.
The existing ban on manufacturing most items impacted went into effect in December 2022, with a ban on sales set to take effect next month. A ban on manufacturing six-pack rings took place in June with their sale to be prohibited by June 2024.
The challenge to Guilbeault's 'toxic' designation came on behalf of the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition, a group that represents plastics companies and chemical companies that produce the materials. The coalition said it supported the judge's decision.
“In the interest of Canadians who rely on plastic products that are essential to everyday life, we believe that the federal government and industry can work collaboratively to reduce plastic waste,” it said in a statement.
Municipal and provincial regulations that ban plastic, including in Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, will not be impacted by the federal ruling.