On August 1, 2023, Environment and Climate Change Canada (“ECCC”) published a consultation document to gather views on a proposed requirement for certain retail parties in the food supply chain to develop and implement a pollution prevention plan pursuant to a Pollution Prevention Planning Notice (“P2 Notice”) for primary food plastic packaging (i.e. plastic packaging that comes into direct contact with food).[i] Grocery retailers, stakeholders, interested partners, and Canadians are invited to comment on the proposal until August 30, 2023.[ii]
Concerns about plastic pollution
In the consultation, the ECCC explains that Canadians are concerned about plastics littering beaches, parks, streets and shorelines. The Government of Canada has committed to move towards zero plastic waste and is proposing to develop a P2 Notice for primary food plastic packaging to reduce plastic pollution. The ECCC notes that this builds on efforts and commitments by grocers and food brands to reduce plastic waste and shift away from single-use and difficult-to-recycle plastics.
On April 18, 2023, the Government of Canada published a Regulatory Framework Paper for recycled content and labelling rules for plastics, which included regulatory targets for recycled content for plastic packaging and certain single-use plastics. The proposed recycled content requirements do not apply to plastic packaging that comes into direct contact with food due to food safety requirements under the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations.[iii] The P2 Notice is meant to operate as an alternative approach to address these issues.
The P2 Notice would reduce the overall threat of harm posed by plastic items in the environment by eliminating unnecessary or problematic plastic packaging, replacing single-use plastic packaging with reuse-refill systems and ensuring any plastic packaging used is designed to be reused, recycled or composted.[iv]
P2 Notice plan
The ECCC is proposing an approach where applicable persons would need to implement a P2 Notice pollution prevention plan to meet targets set by the Minister for recycled content. The ECCC proposes to use the P2 Notice under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to reduce the environmental impact of primary food packaging in order to eliminate or reduce pollution.
The P2 Notice would set requirements for the following parties to prepare and implement a plan to meet targets by redesigning primary food plastic packaging to reduce the harm of plastic pollution:[v]
- persons that generate grocery retail sales in Canada over $4 billion annually, including in-store and online sales; and
- persons that operate a chain of supermarkets, grocery stores, supercentres and/or warehouse clubs engaged in retailing grocery products (this would include general lines of fresh and prepared foods including meats, poultry and seafood, bakery, canned and frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products).
The P2 Notice is not meant to apply to small businesses such as independent grocers, specialty food stores, convenience stores or farmers markets.
The P2 Notice for primary food plastic packaging is intended to target entities with the most control over in-store experiences, design and marketing of plastic package foods, and the sale of plastic packaged foods. The applicable parties would be required to prepare and implement a P2 Notice plan in relation to activities such as: (i) distribution and sale of general lines of food products packaged in primary plastic packaging, such as foods (including pet foods) packaged in bags, pouches, multi-layer wrap, filled bottles, beverage bottles; and (ii) the use of primary food plastic packaging in store, such as produce bags, trays (meat), plastic wrap used to package foods, bags for bakery items, and deli/take out containers. These activities to reduce plastic would apply to direct-to-consumer and business-to-business packaging in contact with food.
Accountability and reporting obligations
If persons or companies subject to the P2 Notice are not able to meet the objectives, they will not be deemed non-compliant but instead must report to ECCC on how they considered all applicable factors when trying to implement a plan, why objectives were not met, and propose a plan identifying actions that will be implemented to meet the objectives. Enforcement actions may be taken against those who fail to prepare and implement a plan or fail to report as described above.
Should you have any questions regarding the consultation or Canadian food safety matters, please contact any member of Miller Thomson’s Marketing, Advertising and Product Compliance team.