Last week, Halifax Regional Council voted against a motion to ban the use of single use plastic bags in the city. Instead, council voted for staff to prepare a report on the logistics and feasibility of banning plastic bags, while also urging the province to consider a provincewide ban. It is anticipated that a staff report will take approximately one year to complete.
Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment is considering a province-wide ban or a fee on single use plastic bags as a way to limit the amount of film plastic being used and discarded by Nova Scotians. A decision from the Minister is expected before June 2018 and the status quo is likely not an option.
For years, there have been calls from various stakeholder groups for Nova Scotia governments to take steps to reduce the use of single use plastic in the province. The call for action intensified over the past year as municipal governments across Canada began enacting their own fees / bans on single use plastic bags.
RCC has been working closely with the Nova Scotia government and various Nova Scotia municipal governments over this time period, trying to find solutions.
In 2017, RCC members committed to a proactive approach that would see RCC members work with governments to diminish the use of single use items (including single use plastic bags). This approach has been shared with government officials across Atlantic Canada and the approach has been generally well received. The RCC approach is only a starting point and thus, RCC continues to work with provinces like Nova Scotia to provide input on the development of long term plans,
In mid-2017, China announced that it would no longer take used plastic film from North American markets. This decision has created serious challenges for governments and blue box/bag programs across North America as material recycling facilities (MRFs) have been unable to find new markets for their plastic film.
Nova Scotia has a landfill ban on plastic. Thus, plastic film was being stockpiled around the province while municipal governments were frantically searching for new markets. In the City of Halifax, the problem was particularly challenging due to the city’s large population. The issue reached a critical point in late 2017 as the Nova Scotia Department of Environment had to grant a temporary, six-month exemption to Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) to allow plastic film to go to the Green for Life landfill in West Hants, Nova Scotia. The plastic film subjected to this temporary exemption includes plastic shopping bags, the wrap around toilet paper and paper towels, and the wrapping around water bottles, pop or juice cans.
What RCC Did/Next Steps
The temporary exemption that is allowing single use plastic bags to go to landfill will end in June. The status quo is likely not an option. Many Nova Scotia municipalities (like Halifax) are growing impatient with the lack of action from the provincial government on this issue. Support among the general public for action on single use plastic bags also seems to be increasing (especially in Halifax). RCC is confident that if the province doesn’t act, some municipalities will implement bans. Municipalities in Nova Scotia are unable to implement fees on single use plastic bags.
RCC has been meeting with the Nova Scotia Environment Minister and working with government officials in all Atlantic Provinces trying to find a solution to the increasing public pressure for bans / fees on single use plastic bags. The Nova Scotia government appreciates RCC’s constructive approach and willingness to work with government on finding solutions to this issue. RCC will continue to work with its members, government and other stakeholders on this issue.