The Nova Scotia government is working on an analysis that considers the impacts of a plastic bag ban in the province.
“I’m not going to take away any option that could reduce the amount of plastics that we use. Plastic bags aren’t all of the film plastic that comes out of the province but, certainly, there are options that could include that as a policy piece,” provincial Environment Minister Iain Rankin said on Thursday.
He said his department is considering all potential measures.
Consideration of the ban was encouraged at a meeting on Thursday at Halifax City Hall with the minister and representatives from across Nova Scotia who handle environmental concerns in their respective municipalities.
Film plastic (plastic bags, food wrap, etc.) has been a significant problem for the municipality after China changed its rules regarding the importation of wastes.
Due to the change and an inability to find a company to take it, Halifax was stuck with 300 tonnes of film plastic. The collection degraded so much that the municipal government said it could no longer be recycled.
Last week, the provincial government announced that it approved an application on a six-month term to put the collection in a Nova Scotia landfill; at least 75 tonnes had already been sent to another province.
Incoming film plastic is being processed at a cost to Halifax.
“I think all of the municipalities that we’ve been working with are on board to move forward with banning plastic [bags],” District 6 Coun. Tony Mancini, Halifax’s representative at the meeting, said.
He said he expects Halifax Regional Council to discuss a potential ban from the municipality’s perspective as early as next week.
Jim Cormier, the Atlantic director of the Retail Council of Canada, said the organization has been working with the provincial government on the film plastic problem for the last year.
“As an organization, we’d love to see a voluntary approach,” he said. “We wouldn’t be opposed to a bag fee, as long as it was done at a provincial level, and we’d like to be able to control those fees.”
Cormier said he wants governments to understand the environmental impacts of the production of paper, plastic and reusable bags.
“A ban would be further down the list as far as something that we would support, but it isn’t something that we would rule out as long as it was done in such a way where we would have a say in the process of how it comes about,” he said.
The key is to have a province-wide or regional approach, Cormier said.
“Really, to be honest, [the ban is] a small piece of the bigger issue, but we have agreement that now is an opportunity to take a look at it,” Mancini said.
He said part of the conversation at the meeting was about a potential extended producer responsibility program, which puts the onus on the producer of products to ensure there is a way to recycle them.
“We have great agreement on that,” Mancini added.
Rankin said he encourages people in the province to reduce the amount of plastic they use and to use reusable bags.