Ottawa’s next phase of ‘plastics’ war will increase cost of fruits and vegetables
For decades, nutrition advocates have exhorted Canadians to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Canada’s Food Guide suggests that half of our meals should be fruits and veggies. Why then does the Trudeau government plan to increase fruit and vegetable waste—and increase their costs?
It's all about the government’s war on plastics, specifically its agenda to eliminate plastic waste by 2030. Having already banned single-use plastic items such as drinking straws, stir sticks and plastic cutlery, the government plans to target plastic food packaging. And that’s going to hit consumers in the pocket.
According to a new study from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), under the new reduced-plastic packaging regime, food loss and waste will potentially increase 495,000 tonnes above current levels, incurring financial losses valued at $3.4 billion. These losses, at least in significant part, will ultimately be passed onto consumers. In a report by CTV, reporter Kevin Gallagher suggests that increased costs to consumers might reach 30 per cent.
The study authors suggest this estimate should be considered conservative, because it does not include the potential for single-use plastic bans causing a “complete disruption to some sectors of the fresh produce industry, and the anticipated 17.5 per cent increase in operating costs voiced by respondents that industry would incur.” And 17.5 per cent is the median—cost increases ranged from 11 per cent to 25 per cent. Assuming these increased costs are passed onto consumers, Canadians will see the price of fruits and veggies take yet another jump.
And for what reason? The Trudeau government has foolishly committed Canada to a “Zero Plastic Waste by 2030” crusade. But as I showed in a 2022 study published by the Fraser Institute, Canada does not have a significant plastic waste problem. Less than 1 per cent of plastics used in Canada end up as waste in the environment, and 99 per cent is safely buried in landfills, recycled or incinerated. Canada does not contribute a measurable part of the world’s plastic pollution.
And the government’s own analysis suggests that pursuing this war on plastics will ultimately lead to greater waste of alternative materials, which is already raising concerns among the environmentally-minded. In a separate CTV report Melanie Nagy quotes Nicole Rycroft, founder of Canopy, a forest conservation NGO, who said we should “shift away from using plastics as much as we do, but trading in plastic pollution for deforestation and forest degradation is not the answer" and we must “make sure we do not create another environmental disaster." Rycroft added that “more than three billion trees—many of which are old-growth and endangered—are logged every year to make paper-based products like bags, straws and food containers.”
The Trudeau government’s zero plastic waste crusade was unsound policy from inception, and its own analysis showed the plan’s costs would outstrip its benefits and that it would create more waste, not less. And that most of that increased waste would come from increased consumption of wood and paper products.
Now, the government plans to ratchet up this harmful program, raising already painfully expensive produce in Canada to more painful levels. Ottawa must halt its “Zero Plastic Waste” agenda and take the entire concept back to the drawing board. It’s simply bad policy—bad for Canadian families, bad for our food sector, and as the Canopy tree people observe, bad for the environment.
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