Digby votes to ban plastic bags — if the entire region follows suit

Municipalities across Nova Scotia are trying to figure out what to do about plastic bags now that China is no longer accepting them for recycling.

From charging a fee to encouraging use of reusable bags, N.S. municipalities grapple with plastic's future

Jimmy MacAlpine is warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby. (CBC)

Municipalities across Nova Scotia are trying to figure out what to do with plastic bags now that China is no longer accepting them for recycling.

Councillors in the Municipality of the District of Digby have voted in favour of a ban, but with a condition.

"Basically, our council would support going forward with a ban if the rest of the municipalities in our region supported it as well," said Warden Jimmy MacAlpine. 

The Municipality of the District of Digby is in Solid Waste Region Seven, along with the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, the Municipality of the District of Argyle and the Municipality of the District of Clare. There are also town councils in Digby and Yarmouth.

Persuasion, not ban

The Municipality of the District of Yarmouth council has had a presentation on plastic bags and plans to further debate the issue on Feb. 14.

But the warden is not convinced a ban is the answer.

"If we could support a business to reuse or to find an alternative use for the plastic bags and the plastic film … I think would be the best solution," said Leland Anthony.

Walmart began charging for plastic bags in the Maritimes in 2016. (Danny Johnston/Associated Press/Canadian Press)

Anthony said plastic bags and film plastic could be turned into cupboards, for example. He said it might take all the plastic created in the Maritimes to make the venture feasible.

The town council in Amherst has voted for a provincewide ban. Mayor David Kogon said it's the only way to create a fair playing field for businesses.

"If we are kind of in it in a united way, everybody's an equal player and nobody gets disadvantaged," said Kogon.

Minister hoping for consensus

Another option could be to impose a fee on plastic bags that all retailers would have to charge, which could encourage consumers to bring reusable bags.

Nova Scotia's environment minister wants a consensus from all 50 municipalities before he makes a decision. Iain Rankin also wants to hear from business leaders and the wider public.

"The No. 1 thing is to reduce the use," said Rankin. "There are different options that have to be considered."

Halifax was given a six-month exemption that allows it to send its plastic bags to a landfill. That lasts until June.

Rankin hopes to make a decision on what to do with plastic bags before the exemption expires.