Boosting flexible plastic packaging recycling in Canada from the current 3-4 percent recycling rate to the 25-plus percent rate that some provinces are calling for will require years of work and sizable investments, according to a new report from the Canada Plastics Pact.
That could include more than C$100 million (US$74.8 million) on new sorting facilities, as well as better curbside collection, higher environmental fees for hard-to-recycle flexible plastics and more efforts to strengthen recycling markets to counter disruption from low-cost virgin resin, the report said.
The report, "PRFlex: Perfecting the Recycling System for Flexible Plastic Packaging in Canada," doesn't mince words and says the work will take time.
"It's clear that this issue is very complex, and it is not going to be solved quickly," said Cher Mereweather, CPP managing director, during a Dec. 13 webinar to unveil its findings. "Realistically, we're looking at a five- to 10-year horizon of continuous effort and collaboration."
The report is the part of an initiative, PRFlex, launched in May 2023 by CPP, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, the Recycling Partnership and others to try to increase flexible plastics recycling.
There's a lot of government pressure in the country for better film recycling, both from the federal government and in the extended producer responsibility programs in provinces, said Charles David Mathieu-Poulin, strategic adviser for the Circular Plastics Taskforce, an industry collaborative and PRFlex member.
The provinces are pushing for more. Quebec's EPR program, for example, has a 40 percent recycling rate target for FPP in 2027, while Ontario is aiming for 25 percent by 2026, he told the webinar.
But actual Canadawide recycling rates for FPP today are only about one-tenth of that, according to information presented at the webinar.