Ban on single-use plastics could be boon for Ontario forestry industry

Northern Ontario forestry producers are hoping the Canadian economy is about to trade plastic for paper.

Liberal government ban on single-use plastics could spell opportunity for northern Ontario mills

The Domtar plant in Espanola is one of the few paper mills still operating in northern Ontario, thanks largely to the specialty products its 400 workers make. (CBC)

Northern Ontario forestry producers are hoping the Canadian economy is about to trade plastic for paper.

The federal government wants to ban single use plastics like straws and forks, as early as 2021, and the Forest Products Association of Canada is hoping that wood and paper will take their place.

Bob Larocque, senior vice-president of the group, says this would open new markets for northern Ontario mills.

"This will be new types of end product development that will require the current products that are being made by the northern pulp and paper facilities," Larocque said. "It's creating and maintaining a more diverse market than we have today, so that's incredibly helpful for our current facilities."

Larocque says they're working on substituting their own products for ones that will be most affected by the government ban.

"For example, we can make packaging that would replace Tupperware or plastic bags," he says. "But we're also working with them to replace plastic-type chemistry to make water bottles, for example, with chemicals that come from a tree."

Domtar paper in Espanola has already shifted to making specialty paper products, such as the takeout bags at Tim Hortons.

But Larocque says the forest industry as a whole is at least a few years away from being ready to replace plastic products.


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