Halifax councillors discuss asking Nova Scotia to consider a plastic bag ban

Plastic shopping bags pictured in Halifax on Dec. 7, 2017. Steve Silva / Global News

Halifax councillors could one day request Nova Scotia’s government to consider implementing a province-wide ban on or reduction of the use of plastic shopping bags.

During Thursday’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee meeting, Halifax councillors voted for a motion on the matter to go to Halifax Regional Council on a future date.

“Banning plastic bags and coming up with a strategy, working with the retail association on coming up with some type of ban — other places do it, so why not us?” District 6 Councillor Tony Mancini said regarding a potential ban during an interview shortly after the meeting.

READ MORE: Halifax committee to consider asking for report on plastic shopping bag ban

Mancini said plastic bags pose environmental problems, and there has been a greater focus on plastic film because of a forthcoming import ban in China that is already significantly disrupting where recyclable material from Halifax and other North American cities goes.

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At the moment, the municipality has no buyer of its plastic film, and storage capacity has almost been reached. The growing problem led to an application being submitted to the provincial government for approval to dump that specific material in a landfill in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax.

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Consideration of extended producer responsibility (EPR) is included as an amendment in the motion. The strategy involves the producer of the product offering a way to recycle the product, a system in place in British Columbia, according to Mancini.

“It shifts the responsibility for dealing with these wastes from governments and, ultimately, us the taxpayers, back to the industry that is producing these materials,” Mark Butler, policy director for the Ecology Action Centre, said.

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If the current plastic film supply needs to be put in a landfill, he said the advocacy organization would only find that acceptable as a short-term emergency measure with a long-term solution, such as a ban or an EPR program, on the way.

During the meeting, councillors discussed consumer behaviour and potential fees for plastic bags.

READ MORE: Company asks Nova Scotia for permission to put plastic bags in landfill

The motion also includes a path for the municipality to pursue its own potential ban or other measures.

“If [the provincial government is] not willing to do it sooner than later, we want to do it on our own,” said Mancini.

The Retail Council of Canada would be involved in discussions on the matter, he added.

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“We are open to working with municipalities, industry and others on diverting material. For clarification, this relates to plastic film which are things like plastic bags. It does not relate to all plastics. We encourage all Nova Scotians to continue to divert materials from the landfill,” Chrissy Matheson, a provincial government spokesperson, said in an email.

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