E-News Spring 2022

It has been some time since we’ve sent out an update, but rest assured our Circular Economy, Energy, Transportation, and Water teams have been hard at work on many exciting projects to tackle pollution and better our world.  

This newsletter highlights key initiatives that Pollution Probe is currently spearheading, including:

– development of “Innovation Sandboxes” to allow net-zero innovations to enter the market quicker
-programs to accelerate electric vehicle adoption to reduce GHG emissions and air pollution 
-advancing progress objectives on the 50th anniversary of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
-initiatives to end plastic waste

Read on to get the latest on these exciting projects and more.  

We are also excited to announce that this year’s Pollution Probe Conference & Gala will be happening live and in person at the Toronto Reference Library. Please save November 22nd on your calendar to join us.

– Christopher Hilkene, Chief Executive Officer

Strategic Plan

In April, Pollution Probe released its new Strategic Plan. Building on our 50+ year legacy of environmental action, the strategic plan aims to drive continued progress with a mission to build substantive and enduring solutions to pressing environmental issues.

The 2022 Strategic Plan was developed through multi-stakeholder consultations and technical assessments to highlight Canada’s greatest environmental issues, setting the organization’s direction towards action in four key areas: circular economy, energy, transportation and water.   Highlights include:

Circular Economy: As part of its efforts to contribute to ending plastic pollution, Pollution Probe is co-leading with the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), the expansion of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup across Canada and into the US— an initiative that uses innovative plastic capture technologies to capture and remove plastics from the Great Lakes — to build an engaged community committed to taking action on plastic pollution. The organization is also spearheading the creation of an interactive Plastics Pathway, in partnership with the Toronto Zoo and Green Mantra, which will see more than 1.2 million annual zoo visitors examine the impact of plastic waste on the environment, while showcasing innovative solutions being developed to end plastic pollution.

Energy: Pollution Probe is focused on removing barriers to the deployment of net-zero energy technologies and practices and help communities prepare for the energy transition. Pollution Probe is working to ensure that Canada’s energy and policy and regulatory systems are up to the decarbonization challenge, as well as looking into how we can shift to lower emitting technology to meet our energy needs.

Transportation: Through a first-of-its-kind national survey to electric vehicle owners, and a funding program that is supporting more than 500 new EV charging stations across Canada, Pollution Probe is working to ensure the country’s ambitious EV adoption targets can be met. Further, in partnership with Transport Canada and the Railway Association of Canada, Pollution Probe is developing a decarbonization pathway for Canada’s rail sector. The transportation team is also working to safeguard the environment and human health through the creation of an Electric School Bus Strategy for Ontario.

Water:  This year marks the 50th anniversary of Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and Pollution Probe will complete a study that outlines recommendations for strengthening the Agreement’s objectives, structure, and governance. Pollution Probe will also continue to develop a predictive modelling tool capable of anticipating environmental outcomes to improve watershed management and adaptive decision-making in the lakes, in partnership with CGLR.  

Paired with a refreshed brand and website, Pollution Probe aims to leverage its new Strategic Plan to engage all Canadians on environmental issues that are critically important to act on over the next decade.

Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup

The 2021 season was another successful one for the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup (GLPC). GLPC,a joint initiative of Pollution Probe and the Council of the Great Lakes Region, was showcased at the annual World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), which highlighted the world’s leading circular economy solutions with business leaders, policymakers and experts participating from around the world. GLPC was featured in a video produced by Pollution Probe with support and input from CGLR and lead corporate sponsor, NOVA Chemicals, as part of the event’s Virtual Expo. The video spotlights the work that the GLPC and its supporters are doing not just to clean up the Great Lakes, but to advance a circular economy for plastics that will “close the loop” and break the cycle of plastic waste and pollution. Watch the video here.

The initiative was also featured in the third Progress Report for the Alliance to End Plastic Waste in support of lead corporate sponsor, NOVA Chemicals, an Alliance partner. The report outlines the collective action taken by the Alliance’s partners around the world, and the positive impact that work has on local communities.

This year, the initiative collected significantly more data from its marina partners across the lakes.  GLPC Seabins diverted a total of 13.46 kg of debris over the season and 65,400 tiny pieces! Seabins and LittaTraps capture different amounts of debris each day, depending on a wide range of factors, including the location of the marina, where the technologies are installed on-site and weather conditions. The longer the devices stay in the water, the more debris they are able to trap and remove.

In support of our data collection efforts, the Pollution Probe team (CEO Chris Hilkene, Director of Policy and Programs Melissa De Young, and Senior Manager of Corporate Services Fern Tran) got to work this past fall on analyzing the debris collected from some locally deployed GLPC Seabins at Pirate Life Toronto on Queens Quay. As well as gathering more valuable data, the team enjoyed meeting and answering questions from members of the public and some special guests, including Tim Kocur from the Waterfront BIA and the OMNI TV crew!

Canada Plastics Pact

This fall, Pollution Probe joined over 70 leading businesses and organizations to release a comprehensive and ambitious action plan for reducing plastic waste in Canada through the Canada Plastics Pact (“CPP”). Roadmap to 2025: A shared action plan to build a circular economy for plastics packaging (“the Roadmap”) represents a cross-value chain collaboration, uniting key players behind a shared vision for a circular economy for plastics packaging in Canada and a targeted plan to drive tangible change by 2025.

Leading industry, NGO, and public sector organizations, including brands, retailers, recyclers, resin producers, non-profits, associations, governments and others – who together account for over a third of the plastics packaging on the market in Canada – were engaged during the development of the Roadmap.


Pollution Probe has been at the forefront of the movement to reduce, re-use and recycle since our inception in 1969. As part of the CPP, we’re committed to working in collaboration with other dedicated organizations to build a circular economy for plastics where we eliminate the plastics we don’t need and innovate so the plastics we do need can be reused, recycled and managed to maximize their value, extend their usable life and keep them out of the environment.


As Canada moves to a net-zero future, we need to consider how we can shift hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors. What makes these sectors hard to decarbonize is their need for high-temperature heat, heat that is needed for industrial process themselves, either to make the material or to pump out thick bitumen from the oil sands. Very few options exist to decarbonize industrial heating. Given the difficulty in decarbonizing industrial heat, the federal government is exploring all potential options that could help achieve Canada’s net-zero emissions target. One potential option is small modular reactors (SMRs), advanced nuclear reactors that are designed to be much more compact and more modular than current ones. Four Canadian jurisdictions have already made commitments to develop SMRs. Yet, there has been little public discourse about them. It is in the public interest for Pollution Probe to help initiate that discourse. In a new report, Potential of Small Modular Reactors in Hard-to-Decarbonize Industries, Pollution Probe used modelling to investigate SMRs’ potential roles in decarbonization. We also brought together diverse stakeholders, from a range of industries that might use SMRs to reduce their GHG emissions, to obtain their perspectives on the potential benefits, costs and risks. Nuclear energy is an emotive issue and fulsome discourse is required to determine if and where SMRs might be employed.

In the past year, Pollution Probe and its partner QUEST have been actively working on promoting the idea of Innovation Sandboxes to allow the net-zero innovation we will need.

In the summer of 2021, we held a series of national and international workshops to identify barriers and what is needed to get to a net-zero energy system. For an update on our initiative you can watch a video and read our latest national report Jump on In: The Role of Energy Innovation Sandboxes in Getting to Net-Zero. 

We also held separate workshops to help inform the renewal of the innovation framework in Ontario, and we provided detailed feedback to the province’s energy regulator in A State of Renewal: Ontario’s Innovation Sandboxes.

We have also been actively working with communities to help them chart their energy future. In another partnership with QUEST, we have been developing a framework for the implementation of community energy or climate action plans, using the City of Burlington as an example. Our framework, which will help other Ontario municipalities implement their plans, will be released later in the spring. 

We have also been working with Ontario municipalities to help them shape Ontario’s future natural gas energy efficiency program. We have collected their feedback and have been working with stakeholders to make sure we get as many energy efficiency programs in Ontario as we can to help us reduce our emissions.

Transportation is neck and neck with oil and gas development as the leading source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. To meet our country’s goal of net-zero GHG emissions, as well as interim targets, transportation will need to play a major role. The good news is that the sector is poised for a wholesale transition to zero-emission technologies such as electric vehicles, and in fact this transition has already begun. 2021 saw EVs reach 5.6% of new passenger vehicle sales nationally – a significant achievement considering Canada was at 1% only a few years previously. This year, Pollution Probe’s transportation program continues to take a multi-faceted approach to driving down GHG emissions and air pollutants. One area our team is leading a couple of major initiatives on is a key enabler of EV adoption – accessible public charging stations.

Stay tuned for results via our soon-to-be published report!

Through funding support from Natural Resources Canada, Pollution Probe recently launched a national program that provides eligible organizations with up to 50% off the purchase and installation costs of charging stations. This program is supporting the deployment of over 500 new stations from coast to coast.

We also recently completed a first-of-its-kind national survey of EV owners, to assess their experiences using public EV chargers. This survey received more than 1,600 responses from EV users in every province. Results are being shared with numerous government departments, companies, and civil society organizations to inform strategies for the continued rollout of charging infrastructure.


April 15, 2022, marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement — a binational framework to coordinate efforts to manage and protect the Great Lakes, initially signed by Canada and the U.S. in 1972. The Agreement has been updated and amended several times since then, most recently in 2012. It’s purpose is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Waters of the Great Lakes.”

The anniversary of the Agreement presents an important opportunity to take stock of its history, and to explore how it can be strengthened to address current and future challenges facing the lakes. Pollution Probe has been involved in advancing progress on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement’s objectives since the beginning and we remain committed to building on this legacy to improve water quality in the Great Lakes.

The organization and its partners recently completed a comprehensive review of the current and previous versions of the Agreement for the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board 50th Anniversary Work Group. The review and accompanying report consider the context for how the Agreement is focused and organized, and examines whether there are opportunities for its implementation mechanisms or language to be strengthened to facilitate progress towards its overall goals. The report also outlines a set of key recommendations that can be accomplished within the existing Agreement.