Canada has Built Strong Manufacturing Capacity Coast to Coast – A Very Good Thing
Canada should be proud that we can take care of our own. During the pandemic, plastic shopping bags were essential to help stop the spread of COVID and help save the lives of Canadians. Canada had no manufacturing capacity for PPE or vaccines, but we did have an extensive network of plastic bag manufacturers who ramped up production when reusable bags were banned from stores.
Canada has a sophisticated and highly successful plastic bag industry that employs thousands of Canadians. 90% of plastic shopping bags used by Canadians are made right here in Canada.
This is a very good thing because Canada has needed this capacity to manufacture millions of plastic shopping bags to fight COVID and we did not have to rely on imports from China for plastic shopping bags.
Major manufacturers are located in communities all across Canada; in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and British Columbia. There are some 12-15,000 direct jobs in plastic film and bag manufacture. And these Canadian companies export bags to international markets too.
These Canadian companies practise environmentally friendly manufacturing processes that are monitored by Ministry of Environment in each province across the country. This is not guaranteed when bags are manufactured in Asia.
Who are these companies? A Profile in Canadian Entrepreneurship
- While it is true that most of the textile industry has migrated to Asia; this is not the case for plastics manufacturing. Ontario is the third largest hub for advanced, plastic manufacturing in North America, behind Ohio and California, south of the border. Quebec is also a major producer of bags and film; the fourth largest manufacturing hub.
- Most of the manufacturing enterprises are family-run businesses and 90% are Canadian operated. They are made right here in Canada unlike reusable bags.
- 90% of reusable bags are imported — made off-shore in countries like China.
- Canada’s plastic bag industry employs thousands of Canadians – as many as 30,000 directly and indirectly across the country. Employment in Canada’s plastic bag and film manufacturing sector spans a value chain of machinists, engineers, resin companies, manufacturers, recyclers, printers, and remanufacturers. (Source: Industry Canada, Canadian Plastics Industry Association).
- Ontario has many of Canada’s plastic bag manufacturers followed by Quebec. 50% of the businesses are located in the GTA, but the other 50% are located in smaller communities across the province.
- The local production of bags is important as it helps reduce the environmental impact of bags and the global warming potential associated with importing bags.
Bans on plastic shopping bags represent a direct export of Canadian jobs to China.
Ontario is the third-largest hub for advanced plastic manufacturing in North America. And Quebec is a world leader in 21st-century technology advances in recycling. Montreal has more recyclers per capita than any other city in North America.
An Important Public Health Policy Tool – Plastic Shopping Bags Save Live
Plastic shopping bags are not only the best bag for the environment according to every scientific study, but they are an important public health tool as well.
The critical role plastic shopping bags play as a public health tool became even more evident during the COVID pandemic. When scientists discovered that the coronavirus could survive for 72 hours on hard surfaces, reusable bags were banned from use in retail stores. The concern was that reusable bags could transport the coronavirus into stores, infecting thousands of front-line retail workers and shoppers.
To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Canadas plastic bag industry was declared an essential industry in a number of provinces. Only conventional plastic shopping bags were allowed because they are the most hygienic bag.
Fortunately for Canadians, we have a large and vibrant plastic bag manufacturing sector across Canada that could be easily mobilized during the pandemic. Unlike with PPE – personal protective equipment – and virus manufacture, we did not have to rely on other countries to import the life-saving bags.
With domestic manufacturing capability, the industry could be mobilized quickly to save lives.
As first use bags, plastic shopping bags help prevent the spread of disease caused by foodborne pathogens like e-Coli, salmonella, and various viruses like the norovirus which can breed in reusable bags.
According to Health Canada, one in eight Canadians are hospitalized each year, and close to 250 die from foodborne illnesses.