Province shifts priority, municipalities lose ground
Single-use plastic is all they’re talking about in Halifax right now, according to Jim Ryan, Mayor of the Town of Pictou and chair of the Shared Services Authority which oversees waste management for the county.
“It’s a small portion of this film plastic, but it’s a start,” Ryan said.
As chair of the SSA, Ryan also represents the region on the Nova Scotia Solid Waste Management Regional Chairs Committee.
On Jan. 11, 2018 this committee met with former environment minister, Iain Rankin to address the plastic problem and develop a province-wide reduction strategy. Rankin tasked the committee with returning to their own municipalities, to bring forward a consensus on a province-wide ban.
Five months later, they reached one. The committee informed Rankin in a May 28 letter from committee chair, Leland Anthony.
In response, the minister thanked the committee for their progress, adding, “Nova Scotia Environment is investigating options to reduce the amount of polyethylene film landfilled in Nova Scotia.
Soon after the provincial cabinet was reshuffled and Hants East MLA Margaret Miller took over as Environment Minister. In October, Miller told reporters the province would not be pursuing a province-wide ban. The committee sent a letter to the new minister for an explanation.
“Municipalities have worked really hard to obtain consensus, not easily achieved on most subjects, to support the province,” the letter reads. “We were so disappointed to recently hear the interview on CBC that your department is not in support of a bag ban.”
In response, the minister thanked the committee for expressing support for a province-wide ban, adding, “New innovative uses, new markets for these materials” would help the province divert the plastics out of Nova Scotia’s landfills.
The responsibility for finding those markets ultimately lies with the municipalities.
“The province should be stepping up here,” said Ryan. “Especially after we were asked to do this as municipalities.”
The first of what could be 10 motions brought forward to municipal councils across the province will be debated at Halifax regional council in January.
Film plastics, including plastic shopping bags, no longer have a final destination for recycling, since China stopped accepting them on Jan. 1, 2018. Now Nova Scotia’s largest municipalities are looking to ban the bag.