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‘Red carpet of pollution’ laid out for environment ministers’ meetings in Halifax

WATCH: Provincial environment ministers are meeting in Halifax, with climate change and plastic waste high on their agenda. Jesse Thomas has the details.

Environmentalist are rolling out the “red carpet of pollution” ahead of the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment meetings being held in Halifax on Thursday.

The red carpet was part of a protest Wednesday to get the attention of politicians and dignitaries ahead of the environmental meetings, and to draw attention to what these environmental groups are calling a present-day “plastic waste crisis.”

READ MORE: Federal government to look into single-use plastics ban: source

“The carpet itself illustrates we aren’t doing enough to prevent plastic pollution from getting into our waterways and contaminating our beaches,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

The red carpet was lined with trash that was all picked up from a recent beachfront clean up in Dartmouth, where volunteers had picked up more than 250 pounds of litter, including items like coffee cups and lids, pop bottles, cigarette butts, fishing gear, hygiene products, fast food bags, a basketball sneaker, and other plastic items.

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Clean up volunteers were particularly concerned given that they had just cleaned up the same stretch of shoreline a few months earlier.

“Marine life is being impacted by this plastic pollution and so I think it’s really important to have this visual symbol because the environment ministers have the power to make a change on an issue that is affecting all Canadians,” said Fitzgerald.

“I think it’s something that these ministers need to see and to remind themselves they have the strength and power for preventing plastic pollution.”

It’s anticipated that climate change and plastic waste will be the primary focus of the meetings that will bring political and federal environmental leaders together, while some expected definitive measures and course of action will be laid out to eliminate single-use plastics in Canada.

The federal government is looking to eliminate single-use plastics from use by 2021, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in early June. They are examining elimination options while also making plastic producers responsible for the collection and recycling of the plastic items they produce.

READ MORE: New ‘plasticrust’ ocean pollution identified on Portuguese island

Environmentalists say this is a step in the right direction but want action, as it’s a federal election year and they want this policy in place.

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“We do applaud of course the step taken by the federal government saying they will ban single-use plastics by 20-21, but we’d like to see some concrete targets and legislation,” said Fitzgerald.

In order to boost the government’s power to regulate the industry, these environmentalists are calling on the government to list plastic waste as “toxic” to bolster regulatory options like a ban on certain plastic items.

“We’d like to see the provinces and the federal government work together, to show that they are serious and that they are going to take action, the provinces through the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment have been talking about this for quite a few years and they are still only at the strategy stage and what we need is action.”

Next to health care, climate change is the biggest issue facing Nova Scotians, says environment minister Gordon Wilson and it’s these conversations he says will push forward progressive actions to curb plastic pollution.

READ MORE: Volunteers clean up Dartmouth Landing for World Oceans Day

“It will be a leap off point for us, an opportunity for us to again continue those conversations as we move forward into all the areas that are involved around plastics,” said Wilson, of the scheduled meetings.

“That would include anything from single-use plastics to film paper, to encouraging people, the lovely innovative people that we have in that green economy that continues to grow, that are even building houses out of it.”

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Discussions will also play into natural infrastructure and climate resilience planning, to examining other risks associated with climate change.