Challenge Question 8.1: Does the packaging minimize or even prevent littering in the environment?


From the Government of Canada’s 2019 Economic Study of the Canadian Plastic Industry:

The term “leakage” (also used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation), is synonymous with the Government’s idea of plastic pollution, defined in its 2020 Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution:  “Plastic that is discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the environment outside of a managed waste stream is considered plastic pollution.”  

The purpose of the Science Assessment was to summarize the state of the science regarding the potential impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and human health, as well as to guide future research and inform decision-making on plastic pollution in Canada. 

Why Important?

As noted by the Science Assessment plastic pollution is a growing concern. Recent research by globally recognized plastic waste researchers says:

“Plastic waste contaminates all major ecosystems on the planet, with concern increasing about its potential impacts on wildlife and human health, as smaller and more widespread plastic particles are identified in both the natural and built environment.”

Research that explains the sources of plastic pollution globally is evolving. This 2020 research looks at global plastic waste production, and shows how the US, despite robust waste management systems, still generate large amounts of mismanaged waste. And the Our World in Data project offers detailed analysis of the sources of ocean plastics.

Is the packaging frequently found littered in the environment?

A quick way to assess packaging with respect to pollution frequency is to refer to annual data from the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup.

There is some overlap with items found on those lists (e.g., plastic bags, food wrappers), and the items the Canadian Government decided to regulate in 2022. As noted in the Regulation Overview (see Background), the rationale for which items to regulate was based in part on evidence that “they are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available and viable alternatives” (emphasis added).

Supporting References

Shoreline Cleanup Annual Reports

Global Plastics Pollution StatisticsNational Geographic Debris Tracker