The Canadian government said it's getting pushback on its proposal for stricter standards around recyclability and compostability labeling, which would require a package to be accepted by 80 percent of collection systems to be called recyclable.
The proposal is part of plan from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government that would also set up a "plastics registry" requiring annual reporting around how plastics are used in the Canadian economy and managed at their end of life.
In a Feb. 17 report outlining feedback it was getting from the formal consultation, the Environment and Climate Change Canada ministry said commenters urged phasing-in new recyclability labeling rules.
"Many stakeholders commented that the proposed 80 percent threshold for acceptance in collection systems for recyclability labeling was too high," the ministry said. "They also commented that a phased-in approach would better align with the adoption of EPR across Canada."
The report noted, however, that industry groups have so far dominated its consultation process, which ran from July to October. Industry made up up to two-thirds of commenters on various topics, while environmental groups made up 13 percent or less.
Canada's government is not alone in eyeing tougher rules.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in December launched a similar review, asking for input on how it should change environmental marketing rules, known as the Green Guides.
Currently, those guides say that recycling facilities must be available for 60 percent of the public or that recycling claims must be limited.
The Canadian review process is in its early stages, with a formal proposal likely to be unveiled later this year and subject to additional public comment. Still, the ministry said in a statement the 80 percent threshold is under consideration.
"New labeling rules are being developed that would prohibit the use of the circular three-arrow symbol (often referred to as the chasing-arrows symbol) and other recyclability claims on plastic packaging and single-use plastics unless specific conditions are met," the ECCC said. "These conditions may include that at least 80 percent of Canadians have access to recycling systems that accept, sort and re-process these plastics."
Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said consumers need more information to understand the impact of the plastics they buy.
"We need clearer labeling, better data collection and enhanced rules for responsible supply chains, and producers that are consistent, comprehensive and transparent," he said. "Together, these tools will help Canada make measurable progress toward zero plastic waste."
The report said some comments expressed concern that labeling rules for plastics only "could lead to competitive inequalities between the plastics industry and industries of other material types, such as fibers, glass, and metals."
As well, the government said many comments agreed that the labeling rules need to be paired with investments in recycling infrastructure, and urged the federal government not to interrupt provincial extended producer responsibility plans.
"There was consensus that labeling alone would not be enough to significantly increase recycling rates," the report said. "Investments are also needed in recyclability and compostability innovation and infrastructure across Canada."
The report comes as another part of the Trudeau government's plastics strategy faces a court hearing in Toronto March 7.
Trudeau's plan to ban some single-use plastics and to designate plastics a "toxic" material under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, is being challenged in court by a coalition of Canadian industry and global firms operating in Canada.
Two U.S. plastics groups, the American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association, have also formally intervened in support of the Canadian industry, while the groups Environmental Defence Canada and Oceana Canada are similarly intervening on the government's side.