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Plastic bag ban still up for debate

Council to discuss voluntary industry ban of single-use plastics.

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That's the thing with you plastics. You think everybody is in love with you when actually, everybody HATES you! - VIA ISTOCK
  • VIA iSTOCK
  • That's the thing with you plastics. You think everybody is in love with you when actually, everybody HATES you!

Plastic bags may be in peril in the HRM.

The municipality’s environmental standing committee is holding off on a vote to reduce single-use plastic waste through voluntary collaboration with the city’s businesses.

Back in January, regional council asked for a report to come to the Environment and Sustainability standing committee outlining options to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics, such as bags, straws, cups and containers.

That report finally arrived on Wednesday, but the debate is being pushed back to the next meeting to allow councillors a chance to properly read the recommendations.

The report recommends a voluntary approach to plastic reduction in collaboration with the retail industry. This would mean each business can decide on its own strategy to reduce plastic waste—from banning bags entirely like the Atlantic Superstore on Quinpool, to charging per bag like Walmart and Dollarama.

Jim Cormier, Atlantic director for the Retail Council of Canada says the voluntary reduction strategy has worked in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, making it a preferred practice for the Atlantic region, too.

“Looking at best practices from other provinces, if things are working there, don't reinvent the wheel, especially for a small province,” he says.

The other option is a complete ban on plastic bags—a step that was recently taken in Victoria and PEI—but the report notes that plastic bags make up only 25 percent of thin-film plastics and only one percent of total materials moving through the city’s recycling facility, so a bag ban is “not viewed as a solution” to plastic waste concerns.

Members of the public were invited to speak at the meeting, and though the real debate has been postponed, some shared initial discontent about the report’s position.

"If it really matters it's got to be regulated,” says Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre. The EAC is leading a petition to ‘Ban the Bag’ in Nova Scotia, and has been advocating for action on film plastics at all three levels of government.

“We've been telling people not to litter for 50 years, more, and they're still littering, and so the voluntary thing doesn't work. We need systematic change,” says Butler.

Caroline Macpherson, a resident of Dartmouth, is running her own petition the old-fashioned way. She’s planning to go door-to-door gathering signatures for a full ban on plastic bags in the municipality.

“If we can get people to stop smoking cigarettes in the city quickly then we can ban plastic bags,” she says. “Because it's killing our environment and I'm just terrified of what the future holds.”

Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East councillor Tony Mancini says he’d prefer to see a ban, too. Since different regulations in different municipalities can pose problems for chain businesses operating in different cities, Mancini and other regional councillors have been asking the province to take the lead on banning bags. So far, the province has said no.

“HRM is the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada, we're the economic driver to Nova Scotia, so since the province is not going to do it we're prepared to take the lead on it and take a look at it,” he says.

Of course, the decision is still up for debate. The report will come to the standing committee again on December 6. The meeting will be open to the public, with a participation period for anyone to share their concerns.

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