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Single-use plastic bag ban to become law in Nova Scotia

Members of the Law Amendments Committee all think something needs to be done, but a number of concerns about the single-use plastic bag legislation have been raised. Jeremy Keefe reports.

The first piece of legislation brought in by the provincial government during the current sitting of the legislature is on its way to becoming a law.

Bill 152- The Plastic Bag Reduction Act reached the Law Amendments Committee Monday after passing its first and second reading in the legislature.

Law Amendments is an opportunity for stakeholders and concerned citizens to voice their opinions in favour of or against proposed legislation.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia to ban use of most plastic bags

Mark Butler, policy director for the Ecology Action Centre, was the first to speak to the committee and indicated his organization was on board with the bill when it was introduced and they continue to be.

However, he did express some concerns over the need to ensure habits change surrounding how we transport goods to and from businesses and our residences.

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“A well designed bag ban can reduce the plastic that gets into our environment and also reduce our greenhouse gasses,” he explained. “We just have to do it right.”

“If people just switch to paper bags, we’re a little further ahead but there’s an environmental footprint to paper bags,” Butler said. “If people just grab a reusable bag and use it once or twice, that’s not good enough.”

Butler’s discussion was vastly different from the meeting’s second speaker.

John Hruska serves as the Vice-President of Sustainability for the Canadian Plastic Industry.

He said they were shocked when the province announced the ban and called it a “purely political” move.

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READ MORE: Would you pay a higher bottle deposit to keep plastic out of the ocean?

Hruska argued that calling them single-use plastic bags can be a misnomer.

He said often people use the bags in garbage bins around the house, or for transporting articles of clothing such as a wet bathing suit.

And that banning them outright will lead to thicker, heavier plastics heading to landfills in greater numbers.

“If you drive everyone into reusable bags, they buy kitchen catchers with probably 30, 50, 70 percent more plastic,” he said of the more durable garbage bags.

“So there are unintended consequences and we don’t think producing more plastic is responsible.”

READ MORE: Sobeys announces plan to remove all plastic bags in 2020

The organization Plastic Free Lunenburg feels the ban can’t come fast enough though, and while they indicated it alone isn’t sufficient they say getting rid of single-use plastics is a necessary step.

“It’s past time that we need to get moving quickly on this,” explained co-founder Teresa Quilty. “We know that there are plastics being found, not just littered but it’s more dangerously what we don’t see.”

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“The micro-plastics that are being found in our seafood, in our food products,” she went on. “They’re being found everywhere, so we really need to get moving on this quickly and we welcome it.”

Bill 152 will now be taken to Committee of the Whole before its Third Reading, at which time it’s then ready to receive Royal Assent becoming law.

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