Q&A

Montreal plastic ban doesn't go far enough: Quebec Green Party

The City of Montreal’s plan to ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags as of Jan. 1, 2018, may seem perfectly in tune with the agenda of environmental groups. Not so, according to Alex Tyrrell, leader of Quebec’s Green Party.

Party leader Alex Tyrrell tells Daybreak paper bags should be subject to a tax, in addition to plastic ban

Montreal has announced it will ban plastic bags by 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

At first glance, the City of Montreal's plan to ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags as of Jan. 1, 2018, would seem perfectly in tune with the agenda of environmental groups.

Not so, according to Alex Tyrrell, leader of Quebec's Green Party. 

In an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Tyrrell offered up his own take on the plan and what could be improved.

Here are edited excerpts of his conversation with host Mike Finnerty.

What do you think of the ban?

Alex Tyrrell, head of the Quebec Green Party, says Montreal could go farther in its attempt to crack down on disposable bags. (Twitter)
We recommended a complete ban of plastic bags immediately and a tax on paper bags. The ban doesn't extend to all disposal bags, so people will simply be able to change the plastic bags for paper, which also have a quite considerable environmental impact.

What would you like to see happen?

For us, it was more about banning plastic bags immediately and phasing in a more and more aggressive tax on paper bags. So we proposed starting at 30 cents and increasing that by 10 cents a year for four years until eventually they would become completely banned.

What about the exemptions, such as thin plastic bags for meat?

Health Canada recommends that meat be packaged in these very thin bags so unfortunately the City of Montreal wasn't able to get around that federal regulation. I'm not an expert in public health, but I think that should definitely be looked into. Those bags contribute significantly to the amount of plastic that we use and we should do anything we can do to reduce our consumption including banning disposable coffee cups or coffee capsules and even plastic water bottles, which Denis Coderre mentioned is the next step.

What's so wrong with having some plastic shopping bags?

It's about going further. In 2008, they implemented a five cent charge on plastic bags and consumption went down drastically, by about 50 per cent. It's going in the right direction but it's 2016 and if we want to fight climate change, if we want to make a big difference in the way that we're handling the environment and start taking climate change seriously, we're going to have to change our lifestyles and getting rid of plastic bags completely is a step in the right direction.

Do you see a connection between plastic bags and climate change?

Plastic bags are created using oil, which is a huge contributor to climate change. And there's also the impact of the bags once they've been manufactured. Often they end up in rivers, water bodies, plastic is a huge source of pollution in our oceans. It's time to not only cut down on the resources used to make bags but also make sure they don't end up in the environment after their use is completed.

Can't reusable bags end up harming the environment as well?

One of the things that we recommended to the City of Montreal was that there be a minimum standard for the reusable bags, for example a reusable bag that you can use for at least, say, 120 uses. If you make bags that are thicker but aren't durable, they'll be no good after five or six uses. And that's less efficient than having the disposable bags. They didn't take up that recommendation. They did recommend that the bags have to be at least 15 microns thick, which is a very thick plastic bag. And some retailers could still use the 15 micron bags as a disposable bag.

What's so bad about paper bags?

The energy required to produce paper bags is actually superior to what's required for plastic bags. The advantage of paper bags is if they do end up in the environment, they degrade far more rapidly than plastic ones.