It’s anything but in the bag
Municipalities left to sort out plastics problem on their own
Without regulatory action from the province, consensus among Nova Scotia’s largest municipalities will be needed to invoke a ban on single-use plastics by the end of 2019.
“We’re always going to the province, asking for more powers,” said Halifax Regional Municipality councillor Waye Mason, who is also president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities. He spoke during a brief presentation to the Halifax Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee on Dec. 6.
“By working together, we can implement a province-wide ban, or a nearly province-wide ban, without waiting for the minister of environment and the legislation to take action,” he said. “This is in our control.”
At that meeting the committee approved a strategy that would effectively ban single-use plastics – like plastic-wraps, bread bags and shopping bags – from HRM by the end of 2019. In lieu of a provincially regulated ban, HRM would collaborate with the other nine large municipalities to draft by-laws aimed at eliminating single-use plastic bags as soon as possible, but no later than December 2019.
“We met, and all the mayors agreed that they will ban plastic bags this year,” said Mason of the federation’s annual general meeting in November. Dates for a ban would be subject to change, but coming out of the meeting was a soft-launch for July 1, and a hard ban Oct. 1.
“At the November AGM we agreed to support this and we’re awaiting information from HRM,” said New Glasgow Mayor, Nancy Dicks. “They have staff that are working on the details and they’ve taken the lead.”
Consensus on complex issues can be difficult, and the mayors will need support of their own
municipal councils for anything to move forward. Some municipal leaders have expressed frustration at the province’s unwillingness to pursue a provincially-regulated ban on single-use plastic.
“All levels of government have been dragging their feet,” said Wolfville Mayor, Jeff Cantwell, who is also a board member on the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities. While he’s pleased the ban is moving forward, he’d prefer it was provinceled and had come sooner.
Jenny Postema, municipal clerk with the County of Kings, said their council passed a motion
in March 2018 to “support a province-wide ban on single-use plastics, provided the initiative is undertaken by the Province of Nova Scotia and involves a promotional campaign.”
How much plastic?
Of the province’s 50 municipalities, 41 made similar motions of support for a province-wide approach on a distribution ban of single-use plastics, or polyethylene film plastics, which have been banned from Nova Scotia’s landfills since 1994.
Nova Scotia once shipped this recyclable material to China. But since the end of 2017, when China announced it would no longer accept
Canada’s film plastics, materials have been piling up and municipalities are having trouble finding markets for it.
According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia diverted 293,178 tonnes of residential and non-residential material from municipal landfills. Nova Scotians also use between 300 and 500 million plastic grocery bags each year, with only three per cent finding its way into the streets, trees and waterways as observable garbage.
Value Village store manager Reg Chitty says his New Minas store branch has been using paper bags in lieu of plastic since August, and that the change has been a popular one with customers.