A new era begins on Prince Edward Island Saturday as retailers can once again legally sell canned carbonated beverages for the first time in almost a quarter-century.


Empty bottles on a Prince Edward Island lawn may become a less familiar sight with the end of the Island's 'can ban.' ((CBC))

The lifting of P.E.I.'s so-called "can ban" is being viewed by Islanders as either a cause for celebration or a day to lament. Prince Edward Island was the only place in North America where pop could only be sold in refillable bottles.

The ban was put in place in 1984 to protect jobs at the local Pepsi bottling plant and to protect the environment. The province also banned pop from being sold in plastic bottles.

It's the way a whole generation of Prince Edward Islanders quenched their thirst, unless they brought back canned pop from the mainland, which Islanders did by the trunkful. For a kid, a can of pop in a lunch box was a status symbol.

It was pressure from Islanders themselves that convinced the new government to end the can ban, which became a campaign issue in the provincial election last May.

The lifting of the ban has been twice delayed while details of the deposit and return system for cans were worked out.

A Charlottetown radio station will mark the occasion Saturday with a huge celebration in the city.

'Huge step backwards'

But P.E.I. Green party Leader Sharon Labchuk said she won't be celebrating.

"It's a sad day, not only for the environment in P.E.I., but for the environment in those far-away countries where aluminum, actually bauxite, is mined under extremely exploitive conditions of the local people and the environment," Labchuk told CBC News.

"This is a huge step backwards for the environment and social justice."

Environment Minister George Webster has said there are environmental advantages to cans over bottles. In 2007, he told CBC News that while glass bottles require cleaning and refilling, cans can be crushed, hauled to a recycler, melted down and recycled into another product.

But most environmental groups say the suggestion that recycling cans takes less energy than refilling bottles is wrong. The provincial government itself has for more than 20 years argued the environmental advantages of the bottle.

Later Saturday, Charlottetown police will escort a Pepsi truck to the street party, where Webster — who some have dubbed the "minister of pop" — will officially open the first can of soda sold legally on P.E.I. in a generation.

"That the minister of environment is opening the can of pop, I think he should be ashamed of himself," Labchuk said.