Alberta has sided with a coalition of major plastic producers suing to stop the federal government’s efforts to reduce plastic pollution.

In a Wednesday letter, Alberta's attorney general told the Federal Court of Canada that the province would intervene in an industry-led lawsuit against the federal government’s 2021 decision to list plastics as "toxic" under Canada's environmental laws.

The designation underpins a suite of other restrictions on the material, including a recent ban on six single-use plastic items like straws and six-pack rings. Several major plastic manufacturers are suing the federal government over the ban in a separate July lawsuit.

The federal plan received nominal approval last week from Canada's environment ministers — including Alberta's — who signed onto a national "roadmap" to reduce plastic waste. But in an about-face, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro on Thursday cast the federal plan as a "direct threat" to the province and a constitutional violation.

Alberta has banked its post-pandemic economic recovery on massively expanding its plastics and petrochemical industry in the coming years to compensate as demand drops for fossil fuels in other sectors. The federal government's decision to list plastic as "toxic" is having "a negative effect" on these efforts, Shandro said.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated this summer that if nothing is done to curb production, global plastic waste is set to roughly triple by 2060. Scientists are already warning that current levels of plastic production and pollution are a major threat to the environment, the climate and human health.

"It is disappointing to see conservatives once again running to the courts to oppose our efforts to keep plastics out of our landfills and environment," federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement.

Alberta has fought alongside Canada's $28-billion plastics industry in its years-long lobbying efforts to water down the Trudeau government's plan to tackle the plastic problem. These efforts have focused on the province's potential economic losses should the regulations move forward — it pegs them around $30 billion — and concerns the federal government is overstepping its constitutional limits.

While the provinces and territories are responsible for waste management, the federal government's decision to designate plastic as "toxic" means it can be regulated federally. While it is more widely associated with heavy metals or harmful chemicals, the "toxic" designation can be applied to any substance that harms the environment, biodiversity or human health, explained Joe Castrilli, a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Alberta has sided with a coalition of major plastic producers suing to stop the federal government’s efforts to reduce plastic pollution. 

The federal government in 2020 released a scientific assessment that concluded plastic pollution is harming animals and the environment.

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Gosh, I'm so surprised.

Gee what a huge surprise considering Alberta is on the forefront of climate action and environmentalism. When I observe KKKenny I can only see one reason to keep plastic bags.