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Welcome to Pollution Probe’s Summer 2020 e-newsletter!

It’s been a challenging and eventful year, and we’ve never been more grateful for the community we work with towards clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet for all.

We’ve been busy on many fronts, with exciting developments on long-term projects as well as brand-new initiatives and collaborations. In addition, we’ve been working with the Ontario Public Health Association on the Make It Better campaign, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Toronto Zoo to work together on reducing plastic pollution, building a circular economy, and implementing zero-emissions energy innovations.

Read on to find out what we’ve been up to!

Since 2018, when Canada adopted the Oceans Plastics Charter to take action on ocean plastic pollution, we’ve taken the lead on making sure similar work is being done for Canada’s freshwater systems, where plastic pollution is every bit as much of an issue.

That same year, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) developed a Canada-wide Strategy for Zero Plastic Waste to tackle the significant environmental and ecological challenge of plastic waste in Canada. This January, we were pleased to be a regional partner of the CCME’s Toronto workshop for the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste: Phase 2, which focuses on preventing plastic pollution in both marine and freshwater ecosystems, advancing science to monitor the environmental impacts of plastics, consumer awareness, and cleaning up plastic pollution from the environment.

We are pleased to be working with a group of amazing partners to launch two collaborative projects focused on cleaning up plastic, advancing plastic pollution research, and building a circular economy for plastics in the Great Lakes Region.

For the Great Lakes Plastics Cleanup, we are working with marinas across the Great Lakes to install cutting-edge plastic capture technology that will remove litter from the waterways, after which it will be analyzed and recycled wherever possible. Through outreach, engagement, and research, we’ll be raising awareness of the plastic problem and encouraging action to prevent more plastic from ending up in the water. This project is made possible thanks to financial support from Environment and Climate Change Canada through the Council of the Great Lakes Region.

The Ontario Materials Marketplace is focused on creating a system to recover and reuse valuable plastic that is often sent to landfills. We’re pleased to support the Council of the Great Lakes Region and the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development on this project, which uses a cloud-based platform that has been successfully operating in several US states to create a marketplace of valuable reusable plastic for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector – the first provincial marketplace of its kind in Canada and a vital step in the transition to a circular economy.

Pollution Probe’s energy program is focused on how Canada can produce, distribute and use cleaner, more sustainable energy. This spring, we examined the latest challenge facing Ontario, and more specifically the Greater Toronto Area – with the Pickering nuclear plant scheduled to close by 2025, can the province maintain its low-emissions power system and replace Pickering with viable clean electricity sources? Check out our Director of Energy Richard Carlson’s op-ed on the subject in the Toronto Star here.

Meeting energy demands cleanly, in ways that keep consumer costs low, is by no means an Ontario-specific issue, though. Our May 21 webinar featured a range of guest speakers in an in-depth discussion of how Canada’s urban centres can maintain and expand their electricity systems flexibly, cleanly and affordably to meet growing demand.

With the growing focus on sustainable and low-emissions energy, the future of fossil fuels in Canada is by no means easy to predict. To try and answer questions about what the future holds for fuels, it’s important to understand what’s happening now. Our four-part blog series on crude oil in Canada tells you all you need to know about the state of the oil industry in the current moment.

Our cities and jurisdictions of course have vastly different energy systems, with diverse and constantly evolving needs and priorities. Innovative approaches are needed to meet these changing needs. Pollution Probe has partnered with QUEST on the Innovation Sandboxes project to support and create infrastructure for innovation that will help jurisdictions across Canada develop new and improved policies, regulations and programs to keep their energy systems clean, affordable, and sustainable.

Our transportation program develops strategies to reduce environmental impacts from the transportation sector, particularly those that contribute to air pollution and climate change. We’re working with Transport Canada and Canada’s leading rail companies on the Rail Pathways Initiative, evaluating what is being done in Canada and around the world on decarbonization in the rail sector to help map out what Canada should do next to effectively and efficiently continue the process.

A significant component of our work involves finding ways to increase the use of electric vehicles (EVs) in Canada. Last year, we highlighted how EV charging is a significant challenge for people living in multi-unit apartments and condos or houses without garages or driveways. We will soon release the Guide to Electric Vehicle Charging in Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) to demystify the often-complex process of installing and maintaining EV charging infrastructure in these buildings. With more options for charging available, more Canadians can make the choice to drive EVs and help bring down air pollution and GHG emissions across the country.

Last year, Pollution Probe and the Clean Water Foundation focused on the issue of pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes. While medically necessary for many people (and animals like pets and livestock) pharmaceuticals can also accumulate in waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and possibly affecting human health. In a soon to be released report, we explain how citizen science can help create a more complete picture of the pharmaceutical issue in the Great Lakes, engage Canadians from all ages and walks of life in learning about and protecting the lakes, and build a coordinated approach to research, analysis and action on the pharmaceutical issue moving forward. We’ve been working with Swim Drink Fish and Dr. Chris Metcalfe’s research group at Trent university on a project that involves citizen scientists collecting water samples from the Great Lakes to be tested for pharmaceuticals – stay tuned for more updates on this work and our findings!

Our work in the Great Lakes doesn’t end at combating pollution – far from it! Our 2019 Great Lakes Watershed Management and Big Data project with the Council of the Great Lakes Region found that rethinking the ways in which we collect and process watershed data could greatly benefit the individuals and organizations involved in the management of the Great Lakes. This spring, we took things to the next level by partnering with tech giants IBM on a Design Thinking Workshop to begin designing a smart computing data platform to help predict watershed trends and guide sustainable development practices in the Great Lakes. We’re excited to continue our work on this and take this innovative data platform from the concept stage to a functional real-world tool that will help stakeholders and decision-makers to better protect the Great Lakes and their vital resources.

In December 2019, the federal government announced a commitment to establishing a new Canada Water Agency to “work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists and others to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean and well-managed.” Pollution Probe is proud to be working with Environment and Climate Change Canada on examining the roles, responsibilities and actions being taken by Canada’s provinces and territories, independently and collaboratively, on issues related to floods, droughts and pollution prevention, as well as identifying areas of potential improvement in these areas. The important work aims to create a clear picture of how these issues are managed across the country and to help identify priorities for future work.

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Pollution Probe is a registered charitable organization and donations from people like you allow us to continue our work for clean air, clean water and a healthy planet.