How Bill 228 Affects Docks And Cottagers

Things change, and sometimes for the better. When it comes to the health of Ontario’s waterways, positive change is always welcome.

Our freshwater ecosystems are essential to our survival in Ontario and the rest of the world, and so we need to develop ways to protect them at all costs. The Great Lakes hold “20 percent of the earth’s fresh surface water”, and honestly every drop counts. 

The Problem

Unencapsulated or open polystyrene has been used in docks, buoys, and floatation devices for many years. The problem is that this material can break apart from docks and floating devices and end up as large chunks of debris that cause safety issues for boaters. This material also pollutes waterways and shorelines. Perhaps most alarmingly, these chunks can break into smaller pieces (sometimes less than 5mm wide) and are eaten by fish and other animals, and then end up in our ecosystem as dangerous microplastics. 

If you’ve been following the challenge of dealing with microplastics in the Great Lakes, you know how serious it is. “According to the United States Geological Survey, there are 112,000 particles of microplastics per square mile of Great Lakes water,” reports Great Lakes Now. Over 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for clean drinking water between Canada and the United States, so the issue is of utmost urgency.

These microplastics are a result of the deterioration of several different types of plastic, including shopping bags, plastic cups, detergent bottles, and of course open polystyrene flotation devices. According to MPP Norm Miller’s website, “In 2019, volunteers with Georgian Bay Forever conducting a cleanup of the Georgian Bay shoreline in Parry Sound collected an estimated 5000 pieces of dock foam, far more than any other kind of litter.”

It’s clearly a significant problem. Luckily, some people are actively championing positive change. 

What is Bill 228?

If you’re an Ontario waterfront cottager with a dock, you may have already heard about Bill 228. 

Bill 228 is referred to as the “Keeping Polystyrene Out of Ontario’s Lakes and Rivers Act, 2021”. It was tabled in November of 2020 by Parry Sound/Muskoka MPP Norm Miller

According to the Government Monitor committee meeting transcript, Bill 228 is “An Act to prohibit unencapsulated expanded or extruded polystyrene in floating docks, floating platforms, and buoys.”

Bill 228 was given royal assent on May 20th, 2021. It will come into force on the second anniversary of the day it receives Royal Assent, meaning May 20th, 2023.

The essentials of the bill are as follows: 

  • No dock manufacturer is to sell unencapsulated polystyrene products as a flotation method for their docks. All expanded or extruded polystyrene in the dock, platform, or buoy must be fully enclosed/encapsulated.
  • A person who constructs or reconstructs a floating dock, floating platform, or buoy shall ensure that any expanded or extruded polystyrene in the dock, platform, or buoy is fully encapsulated.

So far the bill addresses the necessity of encapsulating polystyrene for any floatation device that will be used in a waterway including docks and floating platforms. It does not enforce the removal of existing unencapsulated polystyrene from docks that are already on the water. However, many cottage owners are actively looking to help the situation by making plans to disassemble and remove their docks if they are known to contain open polystyrene. There are many resources available to those that wish to proceed with dismantling their existing dock. 

With the progression of Bill 228 into law, the trend will hopefully continue to address the microplastics issue by ensuring that open polystyrene is eventually removed from all existing docks and floating platforms. Also, by ensuring dock manufacturers are aware of the issue at the source, we can prevent the continuation of open polystyrene used as flotation devices for all of our waterways. 

If you have any questions about removing or replacing your existing dock, we can help. Contact us for more information at any time.