If Plastics Win, We Lose: UN Moves to End Plastic Pollution with Global Treaty Negotiation Hosted in Ottawa, Despite Meddling by “Big Plastic”

OTTAWA, Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People, April 22, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nations around the world are turning their attention to the urgent need to end plastic pollution. Canada stands at the forefront of global efforts to combat this major threat and is hosting the fourth session of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) in Ottawa from April 23 - 29, 2024. These negotiations aim to develop a legally binding global plastics treaty to help safeguard people and the planet from the harmful impacts of plastic pollution.

To highlight the urgency of this issue and directly call on Canadian and international decision-makers to step up, Oceana Canada has partnered with EARTHDAY.ORG to highlight the dangers of plastic pollution by projecting an outdoor illumination on the Supreme Court and the Parliament Buildings with a clear message - PLASTIC IS TOXIC and IF PLASTIC WINS, WE LOSE.

“We can’t further delay solving this crisis. Plastic pollution knows no borders and stands as the second most pressing environmental issue behind climate change. The devastation caused by plastic pollution in the ocean is undeniable, with floating islands of garbage, whales found dead on beaches with stomachs full of plastic bags, seabirds starving due to plastic entanglement and seafood contaminated with microplastics,” said Anthony Merante, Senior Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada. “Canada needs a comprehensive, government-wide strategy, with strong legislation and corporate action to end plastic pollution now. As host to INC-4, Canada must demonstrate bold and unwavering global leadership.”

“Plastics are killing marine wildlife at unprecedented levels, but research is now showing that microplastics and their additive chemicals are associated with a huge range of human health issues too, we suspect on an epic scale. From strokes to cancers to Alzheimer’s,” said Kathleen Rogers, President, EARTHDAY.ORG. “Our own report, Babies VS. Plastics exposed the health risks infants especially face and really underscores the damage we are inflicting on our own children. We can no longer blindly pretend that plastics are inert - they break down into toxic microplastics that have poisoned our soil, oceans and air. We have a right to know what the plastic industry knows about the impact of their products on our health.”

The fossil fuel and plastic industries have hindered action on plastic pollution in Canada and the lobbying efforts of oil and gas interests are now hindering progress in this vital global treaty. These same industries have not presented any solutions to the plastic crisis, which now sees over 90% of plastic waste going to landfills, incinerators or into the environment. Recent polling1 has shown that globally, more than 85% of people want to end plastic pollution, that number being even higher among Canadians at 90%. Plastic pollution is devastating the environment and impacting the health of present and future generations.

INC-4 is the final step before the global plastic treaty is finalized in South Korea later this year. Environmental groups in Canada have joined together to urge the federal government to commit to effective measures, both domestically and internationally, to stop the plastic pollution crisis.

Karen Wirsig, Senior Program Manager for Plastics at Environmental Defence, said, “From the extraction of oil and gas to plastic production, use and disposal, plastic is causing harm to the environment and our health. Communities that find themselves next to production facilities—particularly Indigenous nations—are forced to breathe in toxic air pollution and drink contaminated water. But we are all exposed to the harm of the ever-growing amounts of plastic packaging and products fed to us by an industry that cares only about its profits. Enough is enough. It’s time to end the plastic era.”

Dr. Lyndia Dernis, anesthesiologist, and member of the Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement (AQME) regional committee, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment said, “Plastic is causing a health crisis. What we call plastic is in fact a toxic soup of thousands of chemicals. Endocrine-disrupting additives in plastics have been linked with cancers, reproductive issues, immunologic disorders and neurodevelopmental problems. When I administer an intravenous to a pregnant woman, I have to live with the knowledge that I may be exposing three generations to the endocrine-disrupting phthalates in that plastic IV: the pregnant mom, her future baby girl, and the babies of that baby-to-be. We need our government to limit plastics production, eliminate toxic additives, and protect the health of those most at risk – and advocate for these things in a strong global treaty.”

Sabaa Khan, Climate Solutions Director and Director General of Quebec and Atlantic Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation, said, “There is a highly problematic regulatory gap at the global level which has resulted in rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution. But momentum and support are rising for a bold and ambitious plastics treaty. Ending plastic pollution is a triple win: for human health, climate protection and safeguarding biodiversity. But the treaty will only be successful in ending plastic pollution if it addresses the problem at the source, with binding production limits. We also need to see transparency and traceability requirements for chemicals used in plastic production and products, and the phase-out of harmful plastic polymers, chemicals of concern, additives and processing aids."

Melissa Gorrie, Law Reform Manager, Ecojustice said, “As the host nation, the Canadian government must take a leadership role by advocating for a strong, ambitious, and legally binding treaty to protect human and environmental health from the harms of plastics pollution. To be successful, the treaty must address this crisis at its source by limiting and reducing plastic production and eliminating and phasing out toxic chemicals and additives used in plastics production. Canada must not allow negotiations to be held hostage by low-ambition countries and the influence of the fossil fuel and plastics industry. The right approach is one that is rooted in environmental justice and the protection of human rights and Indigenous Rights, and that centers the needs and calls-to-action from Global South countries who are bearing the brunt of the plastics crisis. The treaty must also address the environmental racism at the root of the plastic pollution crisis and ensure a just transition for those that have been disproportionately impacted.”

Additional media contacts:

  • Environmental Defence: Lauren Thomas, lthomas@environmentaldefence.ca; 647-687-2687;
  • Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE): Reykia Fick, media@cape.ca  647-762-9168, 647-762-9168
  • David Suzuki Foundation: Melanie Karalis, mkaralis@davidsuzuki.org, 548-588-1279
  • Ecojustice: Zoryana Cherwick, zcherwick@ecojustice.ca 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277

Oceana Canada (www.oceana.ca) was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and Environment and Climate Change Canada to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.

EARTHDAY.ORG: EARTHDAY.ORG’s founders created and organized the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Since then, EARTHDAY.ORG has mobilized over 1 billion people annually on Earth Day, and every other day, to protect the planet. EARTHDAY.ORG’s mission is to diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement worldwide. EARTHDAY.ORG is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in nearly 192 countries to build environmental democracy. Learn more at EARTHDAY.ORG. It’s not a day, it’s a movement.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1994, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.

David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including First Nations leadership and communities, governments, businesses and individuals to find solutions to create a sustainable Canada through scientific research, traditional ecological knowledge, communications and public engagement, and innovative policy and legal solutions. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future.

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Media contact: Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada, vdassani@oceana.ca, +1 647.294.3335;
Sarah Davies, EARTHDAY.ORG, davies@earthday.org, + 1 240. 463. 1341
Media assets/ Images of Projection on Parliament are available here.

1 https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/85-of-people-want-global-ban-on-single-use-plastics

Photos accompanying this announcement are available at:





NAC 1 Parliament 1 English Parliament 2 French Supreme Court 1