Aca­dia en­vi­ron­ment prof ex­plains why he’s against ban­ning plas­tic bags

The News (New Glasgow) - - PICTOU COUNTY - BY SARA ERIC­S­SON

An Aca­dia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor doesn’t think ban­ning plas­tic bags is the right course of ac­tion.

Dr. David Duke thinks reusing plas­tic bags is a bet­ter so­lu­tion

Duke is a pro­fes­sor in the En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­abil­ity Stud­ies pro­gram at Aca­dia. He says the real ques­tion a ban ad­dressed is not re­gard­ing car­bon im­pact from plas­tic bags, but rather their con­tri­bu­tions to pol­lu­tion.

Ref­er­enc­ing a 2018 Dan­ish study, Duke ar­gues al­ter­na­tive bags peo­ple use to carry gro­cery items home, in lieu of sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, “will have dif­fer­ent and sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts that may not be ap­par­ent in the de­bate.”

“If you re­ally want to ad­dress the plas­tic pol­lu­tion is­sue… there is only one sure-fire way to do it prop­erly: ed­u­ca­tion and the pro­vi­sion of con­ve­nient re­cy­cling,” he says.

Duke says this ap­proach would en­sure plas­tic is kept out of the en­vi­ron­ment and sorted, where it be­longs, within the con­sump­tion and re­use cy­cle.

He also main­tains ad­di­tion of new re­sources – al­ter­na­tive bag op­tions like cot­ton tote bags – would no longer be re­quired.

“The so­lu­tion is to en­cour­age the use of re­us­able and re­cy­clable plas­tic bags. These can be used many times and when they be­gin to break they can be recycled,” he says.

Duke says these bags fall within the con­cept of con­ve­nient re­cy­cling since they last through 40 to 50 uses and are later recycled. But he says there must be govern­ment buy-in for this con­cept and fur­ther en­vi­ron­ment ed­u­ca­tion for it to work.

“The govern­ment looks like it’s do­ing some­thing for the en­vi­ron­ment, and on one level it is, but it’s do­ing so only on that one level, and it may be mak­ing the prob­lem worse else­where,” he says.

Duke would sup­port tax­ing plas­tic bags, with funds raised go­ing to­ward im­prov­ing re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties and mak­ing re­us­able and fully-re­cy­clable plas­tic totes cheaper and more ac­ces­si­ble.

This could be aug­mented with a sharp in­crease in penal­ties for im­proper plas­tic dis­posal.

“If we want to nudge peo­ple’s be­hav­iour into new direc­tions us­ing pol­icy, this would be a bet­ter way to do it, in my opin­ion,” he says.

CON­TRIBUTED PHOTO

Aca­dia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Dr. David Duke says reusing plas­tic bags in­stead of ban­ning them would be a bet­ter way to fight the pol­lu­tion im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

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