Nfld. & Labrador

Environment minister on bag ban: Meetings, committees, and more meetings

Don't hold your breath, but keep holding the (plastic) bag.

Andrew Parsons says the provincial government needs to consider all sides before introducing legislation

Plastic bags are 'the flag' of waste but a small actual percentage of the problem, says Newfoundland and Labrador's acting environment minister. (Twitter/@grrbage )

Newfoundland and Labrador's acting environment minister says the province is studying the merits of banning single-use plastic bags — but don't expect legislation any time soon.

Andrew Parsons said the provincial government is studying all sides and meeting with groups involved, including Municipalities NL.

"It's obviously one that they're quite passionate about, and I'm always happy to have that meeting," he told CBC's On the Go on Tuesday.

"We've met with the Canadian Plastics [Industry] Association [and] the Retail Council. We have committees working within various departments, talking about the merits, logistics, as well as the legislative aspects of bringing forward a ban, or what are some of the other alternatives we can do," he said.

Plastic bags litter the entrance of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay municipal landfill site. (John Gaudi/CBC )

​The minister responded to Municipalities NL president Tony Keats who reiterated the organization's call for the province to ban single-use plastic bags. Keats told On the Go on Monday that municipalities spend a lot of money cleaning up garbage.

"With plastic bags, we don't have any boundaries when it comes to the wind blowing them around," said Keats. "We use over a hundred million single-use plastic bags each year, so it's very important when it comes to our environment and what our towns look like," he added.

The bigger picture 

Parsons said the term "single-use plastic bags" is a misnomer in the first place.

"The vast majority of these bags are used multiple times," said Parsons. "I challenge you to find anybody that follows a dog around this province that's not using a plastic bag a second time."

There should be more emphasis on banning all plastic packaging, says Andrew Parsons. (CBC)

He also said plastic bags make up a very small actual percentage of garbage.

"I'm not saying it's not a big thing," he said, noting that plastic bags are "the flag" of litter. "We drive along, we see them and they look terrible, but I think there's a bigger picture that we have to deal with here, and that's why we have to work with everybody."

Parsons said he wants a reduction in waste, and all sides — residents, municipalities, producers and retailers — need to be considered.

"But I also want to take the time, if I'm making a decision, whether it's in this department or in life, I'd like to consider all sides to ensure that some of the concerns that we've seen elsewhere aren't repeated here."

He said "it's hard to put a timeline" on when any legislation might be introduced.

"I'd rather be accused of consulting too much and coming up with something that I think is going to work better than not consulting enough and having a consequence that comes out and people say, 'well, you rushed into that one and you made a bigger mess'."

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