New Brunswick

Moncton moves to restrict distribution of single-use plastic bags

Moncton introduced a bylaw Monday restricting distribution of single-use plastic bags, part of a regional effort to cut down on plastic waste. The bylaw has several exemptions and will also force stores to charge for paper bags.

Dieppe and Riverview expected to introduce similar bylaws this month

Elaine Aucoin, Moncton's director environmental planning and management, says the proposed bylaw would restrict the distribution of single-use plastic bags by any business. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton has introduced a bylaw restricting businesses from distributing some single-use plastic bags by July 2020, part of a regional effort to curb plastic waste.

Councillors unanimously gave first reading to the bylaw at Monday's city council meeting. Second and third reading are expected at a future meeting. 

It includes exemptions for things like loose fruit, potted plants, flyers and dry cleaned clothing. Selling packages of multiple garbage bags would still be allowed. 

"The number one intent is to reduce single-use bags and motivate people to always use reusable bags," said Elaine Aucoin, Moncton's director of environmental planning and management. 

The bylaw requires businesses to charge for most paper bags in an attempt to encourage the use of reusable bags. The cost of a paper bag would be set by each business.

Dieppe and Riverview are expected to introduce similar bylaws in the coming weeks. 

It is expected to take effect July 1, 2020, which Aucoin said would give businesses time to use their remaining bag supplies. 

Violations of the bylaw could result in a fine between $140 and $2,100. Aucoin said the city's bylaw officer will enforce the bylaw by responding to complaints. 

"It is a good first attempt at reducing the amount of single-use plastics in the Greater Moncton area," said Pierre Boudreau, the city's deputy mayor who called for the bylaw a year ago. 

While the bylaw would restrict distribution of most plastic bags, exemptions would apply for bags that carry things like loose fruit and vegetables, newspapers, dry cleaned clothing and tires. (John Gaudi/CBC )

Several councillors raised concerns with the number of exemptions, with Coun. Brian Hicks calling it more "symbolism than anything."

Aucoin said the bylaw follows similar rules put in place elsewhere, including Prince Edward Island.

Mayor Dawn Arnold pushed back on the idea the bylaw would be symbolic. 

"I think we've all seen those bags flying through the air, stuck in trees and we've seen the pictures from China of our waste that's not being recycled," she told reporters after the vote. "I think it's a small thing, but the beginning of more to come in our province and around the world."

Pierre Boudreau, Moncton's deputy mayor, called for restricting use of plastic bags in May 2018. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Arnold said she hasn't received any negative feedback to the idea. 

The Retail Council of Canada suggested a provincial approach to curbing the use of plastic bags so rules don't vary by community. 

Almost 78 per cent of the 1,700 respondents of an unscientific survey last year were in favour of a single-use plastic bag ban. Fourteen per cent were opposed and eight per cent were undecided. 

Here is a list of bylaw exemptions for bags that: 

  • hold loose bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains or candy
  • hold loose small hardware items such as nails and bolts
  • contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not
  • wrap flowers or potted plants
  • protect prepared foods or bakery goods that aren't pre-packaged
  • contain prescription drugs from a pharmacy
  • transport live fish
  • protect linens, bedding or other similar large items that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag
  • protect newspapers or other printed material to be left at a person's home or business
  • protect clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning
  • protect tires that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag
  • collect and dispose of animal waste

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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