Advocacy | Nova Scotia | Sustainability

Nova Scotia to ban single use plastic checkout bags – likely by fall 2020 rules generally harmonized with PEI

September 27, 2019

Following almost two years of consultation with Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and other stakeholders, the Nova Scotia government has introduced legislation to ban the retail distribution of single use plastic checkout bags. The Plastic Bags Reduction Act will likely be passed into law at some point during the Fall sitting of the legislature. The new law will come into force one year after the Act receives Royal Assent thus, at some point during the Fall of 2020, retailers can expect the single use plastic checkout bag ban to come into effect. 

In recent years, Nova Scotian municipalities have become increasingly interested in enacting single use plastic bag bans. A number of municipalities have told the provincial government that if the province did not take action on this file, municipal units would enact their own municipal bylaws. RCC worried that such municipal action would subject Nova Scotia retailers to a number of unharmonized, municipal bylaws across the province. 

Many RCC members are already taking voluntary actions to reduce the distribution and public usage of single use plastic checkout bags. Thus, for these retailers, a government mandated bag ban is not the preferred approach. However, when faced with the prospect of unharmonized, municipal bag bans / bag fees, retailers clearly stated that they would rather be part of a provincewide law that is harmonized with the existing Plastic Bag Reduction Act in Prince Edward Island. 

RCC is pleased that it was able to take this direction from its members and work proactively with the Nova Scotia government to achieve a positive result.

Background:

Nova Scotia’s legislation will be almost identical to the Plastic Bag Reduction Act in Prince Edward Island. The exemptions to the law are almost identical, with the following exceptions:

  • There will be no obligation as to the type of checkout bags that retailers can use following the ban of single use plastic checkout bags.
  • There will be no obligation for retailers to charge a fee on the checkout bags they use following the ban of single use plastic checkout bags.
  • PEI allows customers to bring their own single use plastic checkout bags to a retail store (with exceptions) to be used to carry out retail products. The Nova Scotia legislation does not allow this practice as the government felt it would be too confusing for inspectors to police while not encouraging a change in public behavior.

The legislation allows for cabinet to regulate:

  • the powers of inspectors to enforce the Act
  • other single use plastic items (e.g. straws, types of food packaging) in at a future date.

Next Steps:

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) will monitor the Bill as it makes its way through the House of Assembly. RCC will continue its discussions with the Nova Scotia government with regards to a potential extended producer responsibility program for packaging. 

Overall, RCC is pleased that it was able to achieve a successful outcome on this issue for Nova Scotia retailers. It has been apparent for years that municipal units in Nova Scotia were going to take action on single use plastic bags. Given this reality, provincial action – harmonized with the PEI law – is a preferable outcome to a patchwork of unharmonized, municipal bylaws.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  jcormier@retailcouncil.org or (902) 422-4144

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