New Brunswick

Province should phase out single-use plastic bags, environment minister says

New Brunswick's environment and local government minister is looking to bring in legislation that will reduce or ban the use of single-use plastic bags.

Jeff Carr plans to keep a close eye on P.E.I., which is introducing legislation to reduce use of plastic bags

New Brunswick's minister of environment says more discussion needs to take place surrounding the elimination or reduction of single-use plastic bags. (John Robertson/CBC)

New Brunswick's environment and local government minister is looking to bring in legislation that will reduce or ban the use of single-use plastic bags.

Jeff Carr says too much plastic is filling up landfills and more discussion is needed surrounding reduction of the plastic bag.

"If we're going to reduce our waste, I think one of the biggest targets could be plastics," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

Although it could take a year or two to implement legislation, Carr said municipalities, rural residents, students and academics should also be part of a "blanket provincial discussion."

"Let's get a really good dialogue going from a lot of different angles and a lot of different perspectives on what it means to reduce our use of plastic bags, reduce our use of anything that goes to the landfill that shouldn't," he said.  

Carr said he will be looking at places like Prince Edward Island, which will be implementing the Plastic Bag Reduction Act on July 1, 2019.

Another example is Halifax, where the regional council has directed staff to draft a bylaw by the end of 2019 that would ban the bags from being distributed by retail stores.

"The way our society is going now … we have to be more environmentally friendly conscious," Carr said. "A lot of people my age, we're still learning about recycling, we're still learning about the effects of what plastic does to our environment when it goes to the landfill."

Not just a grocery bag

New Brunswick Environment Minister Jeff Carr says more needs to be done to prevent plastics from reaching landfills. (CBC)

Since taking on the cabinet post, Carr has learned there's a lot more he and others can do to help the environment.

"Most of us think of a plastic bag as a grocery bag and that's a big part of it," he said. "But if you really dig into plastic bags and what it means to that industry, you could talk about dry cleaning bags, sandwich bags."

Ban on plastic bags coming to Moncton

Moncton city council has already indicated its intention to work toward a ban on single-use plastic bags in May 2018 after a community group presented a petition at a public meeting.

In the preliminary results of a community survey, most respondents said they are interested in an outright ban in the greater Moncton area.

Moncton council has said a ban on the plastic shopping bags will likely include Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.

Jim Cormier, director of the Retail Council of Canada in Atlantic Canada, has said he's urging municipalities, such as Moncton, that are considering a single-use plastic bag ban to partner with other municipalities or even the province for a more widespread prohibition.

Jim Cormier, Atlantic director of the Retail Council of Canada, is urging municipalities, such as Moncton, that are considering a single-use plastic bag ban to partner with other municipalities or even the province for a more widespread prohibition. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

He said that will make it easier for larger retailers to comply because it will be easier to co-ordinate shipments and orders between different chains.

"Most retailers around this time of year are buying their shipment for the entire year. So you could end up with all of this backlog if all of a sudden if one of the communities said you can no longer use these," he said.

'We can't rush it'

The Retail Council has proposed provincial governments set a target for the public and retailers, then choose a date for reducing availability of the bags or outright ban so no one is caught by surprise.

Carr agreed there needs to be a target date people can plan for so everyone has fair warning and proper discussions are taking place with the retail council and other stakeholders involved.

He said the new regulation would have to be right for New Brunswickers and go through the legistlative process, including public input.

Carr said New Brunswick can also be a leader when it comes to the best policy, while pulling intel from other jurisdictions. But he said the province can't rush the process.

"I think we want to be very careful about where we go," he said. "We want to get the best regulations from other jurisdictions that work for new brunswick."

Carr has always considered himself a "great recycler of rural New Brunswick," as he recycles a lot of his materials from home.

"It turns out I'm not even close to a great recycler," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton and Hadeel Ibrahim

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