Over a third of Canadians lack access to curbside compost bins, and few are provided at large venues, restaurants, and public spaces. Furthermore, many of the existing compost programs refuse compostable packaging, leading to unnecessary packaging and food waste. Without collection and processing, the system won’t work, which is why BPI is focused on transforming the infrastructure landscape.
Most Canadian provinces have introduced or passed laws to create Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. EPR programs require companies to pay fees towards the waste management of their products, including companies that make compostables. However, fees collected from compostable manufacturers have historically not funded compost collection or processing. With provinces continuing to operate EPR programs, BPI will look for opportunities to ensure programs incorporate fairer spending in the future.
South of the border, two states—California and Washington—have passed recent statewide organic waste management collection mandates to avoid landfill methane. BPI supports mandates paired with financial support and clear permitting to composters can succeed, and sees an opportunity to encourage Canadian provinces, and the national government, to follow similar paths.
Mitigating pollution—from GHGs to microplastics—has and will continue to motivate public policy decisions, though decision-makers have often missed opportunities to do so with compost. When communicating solutions, BPI will look to the extent to which compostables maximize food waste diversion and avoid landfill methane. In single-use food ware and food packaging formats, BPI will also look to illuminate how compostables can reduce microplastic pollution as alternatives to hard-to-recycle conventional alternatives that often persist in the environment.
Unfortunately, some laws intended to reduce pollution or increase recycled content in conventional plastic products have also targeted single-use compostables, often without recognizing their unique differences and benefits. BPI will continue to combat misguided policymaking in Canada.
BPI already requires certified products to display specific text and artwork to combat contamination. Some U.S. states and Canada have begun to consider additional labelling requirements, while a few have already disallowed non-compostable products from using false biodegradability claims to greenwash consumers into thinking their products belong in a green bin.
Whether through amendments or standalone bills, interest in new legislation may provide BPI with opportunities to better distinguish compostable products from non-compostables to reduce contamination and increase consumer participation. Laws like HB1799 in Washington state have already begun to require coloring, tinting, and striping, requirements that other states may look to emulate or build upon.
To better understand what consumers respond to, BPI will continue to collaborate on research projects to back up policy ideas with data.
On December 25, 2021, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) released their Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations covering six categories of single-use plastic (SUPs) items: checkout bags, cutlery, stir sticks, straws, ring carriers, and food service ware. While all single-use plastics (including compostables) have been prohibited for certain categories despite BPI suggesting exceptions, certified compostable single-use food service ware was deemed an acceptable alternative to more “problematic” plastics including polystyrene and PVC.
More recently, ECCC released a follow-up consultation paper entitled: Towards Canada-wide rules to strengthen recycling and composting of plastics through accurate labelling, with the intent to “address inaccurate biodegradability, degradability, and compostability claims for plastic products.” BPI will be looking participate in technical review processes and offer its perspective.
Full and Stakeholder Members are eligible to participate in BPI’s Legislative and Advocacy Committee and Canada subcommittee, where policy activity is discussed on a monthly basis. BPI Members are also eligible to receive a monthly digest email that reviews all legislative activity that BPI is tracking. A link to that email is available in BPI’s Monthly Members Newsletter.
The Legislation & Advocacy Committee is in the process of developing Guiding Principles documents for each bill category to enable BPI to quickly develop public comments and collaborate with partner organizations, all while giving BPI Members a chance to shape the position.