Canadian Plastics Watch

JULY 2016

In This Issue:

22 Foam Packaging Photos Added to CPIA’s Image Bank

Fresh, new photos of a variety of white and coloured foam packaging (both expanded [EPS] and extruded [XPS]) have been given their own “foam” category, which can be easily accessed from the Promotion and Education Image Bank home page.

Along with individual and group photos of common foam packaging, the catalogue includes a handful of photos of foam items that people often mistakenly put into recycling bins, such as pink foam insulation. There is also a photo of a picture frame which is made from post-consumer recycled foam. 

Recovery of polystyrene foam packaging in municipal recycling programs continues to grow. In the “Report on the Amount of Post-Consumer Plastics Recycled in Canada” released by CPIA in June 2016, the amount of foam packaging collected in 2014 was 2.9 million kgs, an increase of 0.2 million kgs over 2013. (See article on the Report on the Amount of Post-Consumer Plastics Recycled in Canada included in this newsletter.)

As more municipalities consider options to keep foam packaging out of landfill by collecting it curbside or at depots, the quest for good quality images to use in promotion and education outreach materials and on websites and social media intensifies. And a reminder, that in addition to the individual photos, CPIA has created a series of advertisements that are ready to go. Just add your municipal logo.

All of the images and ads are available in high quality jpg, tiff and eps formats and are royalty-free and downloadable at no charge.

    Run Ottawa & CPIA Show How Events Can Divert Trash

Events and festivals are good for communities but can be bad for the immediate environment. A 2006 study of 25 different venues and events in California showed each visitor generated an average of 2.44 pounds (1.1 kilograms) of waste per day.

But with a little care and planning, the littered waste doesn’t have to happen.

CPIA, working with "Run Ottawa", set out to prove that ‘away from home’ recycling can achieve high diversion rates. At the 2016 Ottawa Run Weekend, held on the last weekend of May, efforts to recover waste paper; plastic, metal and glass containers; organic materials; and thermal blankets were rewarded big time – 75% or eight of the 12 tonnes of waste generated on the course was collected for recycling.

CPIA and Run Ottawa placed recycling bins throughout the race recovery areas at City Hall Festival Plaza and Confederation Park. The specially signed bins helped race participants and some spectators choose the correct bins.

But the big difference came from positioning volunteers at the recycling stations to assist people in putting discarded items into the proper bins. The volunteers were from the Ottawa Titans Water Polo team.

“We are so proud of the recycling results from this year’s race – a 75% diversion rate is an incredible success, and an important component in the Ottawa Race Weekend contributing to healthy environments and lifestyles,” said Race Director John Halvorsen. “And we are very grateful to the Ottawa Titans volunteers for the valuable role they played – they were an incredible resource in educating and engaging the runners about the importance of recycling.”

CPIA’s VP of Sustainability, Krista Friesen, said: “The CPIA is thrilled to continue our partnership with Run Ottawa to build on the lessons we learned about away-from-home recycling in 2015. We are committed to understanding and promoting the fact that recycling in the event-based sector is achievable and an important element of successful events like the Ottawa Race Weekend.”

Markets for Recovered Plastics: It’s All About Quality!

The past year has seen persistent market challenges for plastic recyclers, and while there are bright spots on the horizon, challenges remain.

Analysts like Patty Moore (Moore Recycling Associates Inc.) point to sustainability factors encouraging use of recycled resins. For others, low virgin resin prices combined with low oil prices, oversupply and new companies coming on stream cause questions about future markets and timeframe recovery. One constant: markets evolve. New stewardship programs such as Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) can inject new technology and provide additional support for developing markets.

Market observations

PET prices continue to be affected by an oversupply of virgin PET combined with low oil prices and competitive prices for cotton, an alternative source material for products like fleece. Despite this, some areas (e.g., Ontario) experienced an early spring rebound. HDPE prices experienced a similar rebound that’s likely to continue through the summer. Mixed plastics prices are also quite strong, but as more programs collect mixed plastics, expect additional scrutiny on material quality to maintain pricing.

More communities are recycling plastic bags and overwrap (film) and using new technologies to address associated quality/residue issues (Recycling Today). Plastic bags and overwrap recycling programs are getting creative in encouraging recovery of clean, higher quality materials through return-to-retail and depot initiatives such as the recent Plastic Bag Grab Challenge

Polystyrene (PS) collection, densification and processing systems, combined with technologies to wash, clean and recycle, are helping to build sustainable and stronger markets for recycled PS. Two new markets have recently come on stream: Plastic Recycling Inc. (Indianapolis, IN) accepts all forms and colours of post-consumer foam and rigid PS, using innovative cleaning and processing technology to pelletize recycled materials and create new products. And R&D Recycling (North Bay, ON) accepts clean, white industrial and post-consumer expanded polystyrene (EPS). 

The bottom line

Over the coming months, plastics markets will likely remain competitive and challenging, seeking materials that closely match their specifications and result in higher quality end products.

Programs that are considering adding new plastics are encouraged to contact CPIA Regional Representatives. We can support you in setting up a successful program. You can also use free images and ads from CPIA’s Image Bank to develop promotion and education outreach materials that remind residents how to separate and prepare plastics to optimize value.

   Environment and Climate Change Canada Finalizes Efforts to Regulate Microbeads

Listed in the ingredients of some of your favourite personal care products, you might find varieties of plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene, PET and other plastic materials.

Microscopic plastic particles have become a valuable additive that amps up the cleaning power of toothpastes, exfoliators and body washes - all of which are safe for human use. However, recent studies have shown that microbeads from ‘down the drain’ applications cannot always be fully managed in wastewater treatment plants and may be released to the aquatic environment.

Since 2015, CPIA has been active as one of 25 organizations that has shared information and provided input to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s consultation process to promote environmental sustainability by including microbeads to the List of Toxic Substances regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The goal is to ensure safe management and regulation to prevent further accumulation of microbeads in the environment and prevent damage to aquatic life. 

The information-sharing and consultation process attracted input from members of the public, the scientific community, environmental advocacy, industry and many other groups. And on June 28, 2016, Environment and Climate Change Canada published the final Order to add microbeads to "Schedule 1 of CEPA". 

CPIA and its members continue to support this and many other initiatives to protect Canadian waterways and aquatic systems. We invite you to view our contributions to the discussion and view a summary of activities and inputs on this regulation.  

Plastic Bag Grab Challenge: 18 Tonnes of Bags Collected in Just One School Week

Canadians use plastic bags – we use them frequently to carry the items we purchase to our homes, our workplaces and all kinds of different locations. When we’re done with them, many of us look for ways to keep the bags out of landfill by reusing them, and wherever possible, recycling them in curbside programs or at local drop-off depots.

Taking plastic bag recycling a step further, the Recycling Council of Ontario and Walmart, with CPIA as a partner, threw down the challenge this past spring to Canadian elementary schools – which could recover the greatest number of bags per capita for recycling in a single school week?

The challenge got underway during Earth Week 2016 (April 24 to 29) and trust us – there were some creative entries!!

When the project wrapped up students from 400 participating schools had recovered 18 tonnes of plastic – a total of 2,279,601 bags, that were taken to Walmart in-store recycling depots across the country. That’s 18,000 kg of plastic bags diverted from landfill in five days.

CPIA salutes plastic bag grab participants

Students, parents, school teachers, administrators, and custodians worked together to show what could be done. They brought their enthusiasm and creativity to the task and, together, they made a simple decision: to recycle plastic bags so these valuable materials could be made into new products and packaging, instead of ending their lives prematurely in a landfill.

Plastic bag collection doesn’t always have to be curbside

At CPIA, we’re aware that Canadians rely on plastic bags to help out in their daily lives – to the tune of about one billion used per year. We also know that plastic bags and overwrap can be challenging in material recycling facilities (MRFs). CPIA is proud to contribute to technical studies that facilitate collection and separation in local recycling plants.

The Plastic Bag Grab Challenge reminds us of three important factors for recycling program design and development:

  1. In some situations, recovering materials at strategically located depots offers significant advantages for programs, and ultimately, end markets.
  2. We all want to live according to the waste hierarchy by reducing our use of materials; and when that’s not possible, providing a viable alternative to prevent materials from filling up landfills is a valuable option.
  3. Partnerships between retail operations, municipalities, private sector processors, institutions (like schools) and other groups can develop relationships that generate meaningful and sustainable results. In many cases, curbside and municipal depot collection is the answer; and sometimes it’s also a great idea to look outside of the ‘box’.

For more information:

Find out about the winning schools and all details of the inaugural “Plastic Bag Grab” at its website:

Learn about other alternative collection options for plastic materials.

Discuss collection and market options for your community with a CPIA Regional Representative (scroll to bottom of page to identify the closest regional rep in your location).

Photo source:

Resource Recovery Partnership Workshop – Sharing Challenges; Identifying Opportunities

On June 23, 2016, CPIA, along with our program partners – University of Waterloo, Waterloo Institute of Sustainable Energy, Ontario Waste Management Association, and the Packaging Consortium – hosted the third annual Resource Recovery Partnership Workshop.

The event brought together specialists and stakeholders from across the country to:

  • Strengthen networks and partnerships in research related to resource recovery
  • Share information and consider how to use available data to address key issues in the resource recovery sector; and,
  • Identify opportunities to take advantage of funding that currently exists to support and enhance resource recovery research.

The workshop offered insights and thought-starters for more than 90 participating stakeholders representing all areas of resource recovery work in Canada. The workshop was split into four panels that focused on:

  1. Identifying funding opportunities and support available for research and applied resource recovery initiatives
  2. Exploring current trends that impact the resource recovery sector (i.e., the evolving tonne, cap and trade policy instruments, and data-sharing programs)
  3. Sharing information on reduction, reuse and recycling research and initiatives, including presentations on textile and organics waste, design for recycling, MRF challenges and emerging conversion technologies; and,
  4. Exploring the fourth “R”— Energy Recovery, through municipal programs, academic research, and industry programs that are using unrecycled materials as a low carbon fuel source.

What did we learn?

There were several important takeaways from the day’s presentations. Among them:

  • The range of operational, policy and theoretical initiatives that are in the works now – in municipalities, institutions and the private sector – are diverse and offer options to address some of the key issues that confront municipal recycling staff on a daily basis;
  • Gathering and using good data is vital as it provides essential information about changes in recycling programs and areas that may need to evolve and expand with new technologies to address key issues; and,
  • There are a range of funding and partnership opportunities for research that can offer support for program upgrades and development.

Readers are invited to view the workshop presentations and videos, and to email Krista Friesen with any follow-up questions.  

Plastic Recycling Increased 3% in Canada Between 2013 and 2014

In June 2016, CPIA released a report, 2014 Postconsumer Plastics Recycling in Canada, that showed plastics recycling jumped by three percent in 2014 compared to 2013, despite generally stagnant recycling rates across the country.

The increase is due primarily to a boost in the recycling of plastic bags and overwrap, along with an increase in HDPE (#2) containers. In total, at least 320.7 million kilograms (kg) of post-consumer plastic containers and plastic bags and overwrap were collected for recycling. That’s equivalent to roughly 15,700 regular size transport trailer truck loads. If placed end-to-end, the trucks would stretch nearly 400 kilometres.

The reported plastic quantities represent an increase of 800,000 kgs for bottles and an increase of 7.8 million kgs for bags and overwrap, in large part because of the amount of bags and overwrap that are collected through curbside recycling programs.

Other collection details included:

  • All major recycled plastic categories – bottles, non-bottle rigid, plastic bags and overwrap, and foam – reflected increases in collection compared to 2013
  • Most of the collected plastic comprised bottles

The report also showed that collectors shipped 78% of the materials to end-markets in Canada and the US, while approximately 17% was shipped to overseas markets. It wasn’t clear what end-markets received the remaining 5%.

The results are derived from a voluntary survey that is sent out to more than 500 companies including reclaimers, exporters, brokers and material recovery facilities (MRFs) that handle recycled plastics in North America.

Plastic packaging collected for recycling includes plastic bottles, non-bottle rigid plastics such as deli, dairy, bakery, and produce containers, and flexible plastic packaging such as plastic bags and overwrap. These valuable resources are recycled into new useful items such as fleece jackets, new plastic bottles, pipes, pallets, crates, buckets, decking, and other lawn and garden products.

“Canada’s plastic recycling infrastructure is well-established and working hard to increase recycling opportunities. With CPIA’s efforts and the entrepreneurship of the Canadian plastics recycling industry, survey results show the industry is integral to the circular economy,” says CPIA’s VP of Sustainability, Krista Friesen. “A three percent increase in plastics is significant given that we continue to see improvements in package light-weighting, so to realize any increase means that a larger volume of plastics was recovered. That’s a notable achievement and we congratulate municipalities for their efforts to move the recycling rate needle.”

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