CAPE responds to federal court ruling on Government’s listing of plastic as toxic

November 23, 2023 At the same time as advocates from Canada were in Nairobi working towards a global treaty to tackle the problem of plastic, a federal court judge ruled in favour of the petrochemical industry representatives in their lawsuit against the federal government’s listing of plastic as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil and Nova Chemicals and others challenged the listing which would impact the regulation of single-use plastics, such as straws and grocery bags.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Gulbeault has announced the government intends to appeal the court decision and continue to fight plastic pollution. CAPE applauds this decision. Legal analysis suggests the federal government was acting well within its authority listing plastic as toxic but the recent decision could create a setback for the federal government to respond to the plastic crisis.

In response, Dr. Melissa Lem, a B.C. based family physician and CAPE’s Board President said:

“Now is not the time to back down on plastics. Plastic threatens human health at every stage of its life cycle. People are widely exposed to plastics and their toxic components with adverse health outcomes across the lifespan. Of the over 10,000 chemicals used in plastics, over 2,400 raise concern for their carcinogenicity and endocrine disruption potential. The global costs of treating plastics-related illnesses and environmental waste clean-up are estimated at CAD 800 billion.

“Plastic also contributes significantly to the climate and biodiversity crises. With 460 million tonnes of new plastic already generated each year and production rising, plastics lead to enormous GHG emissions – from extraction and transport of fossil fuels to refining, waste management, leakage into the environment, production, use and disposal. When we take into account a planetary health approach, we see that plastics, climate change, human health and environmental justice are closely connected. 

“Regulation is a key tool to addressing the increasing environmental health crisis stemming from escalating plastic production and pollution. We cannot afford to back away from action to curb the toxic exposures linked with plastics. Canada must do its part with solutions to put an end to the environmental, health and social justice impacts associated with plastic.”

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For more information, please contact:

Reykia Fick, Communications Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) 647-762-9168,