Nfld. & Labrador

Banning the bag and passing the buck: Who should impose a prohibition on plastic?

The provincial government is considering a review of the municipalities act to give individual towns and cities the option to ban plastic bags, but according to MNL that will create unnecessary complications and expenses.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador says many towns lack the administration to enforce a ban

MNL president Tony Keats says municipalities are in support of a plastic shopping bag ban, as long as it's provincially regulated. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Members of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador are in overwhelming support of a provincially mandated ban on plastic bags.

But while it seems most stakeholders are in support of a ban, there are differing opinions regarding whose responsibility it is to implement and enforce it.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Eddie Joyce has said there is potential to review the Municipalities Act, and give individual towns and cities the option to ban plastic bags.

But MNL president Tony Keats hopes that option is just one of many that the provincial government is considering.

Eddie Joyce says imposing a ban on plastic shopping bags is going to be a complicated task. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

According to Keats, municipalities do not have the administration capacity to implement or enforce such restrictions.

"We see that as a recommendation. It's an option that we don't like, but it's just an option," Keats said. MNL would rather that such a ban be provincially regulated.

At a recent MNL convention, 83 per cent of municipalities voted in favor of banning plastic bags. But members are concerned about establishing times frames, and the rules and costs associated with implementing such a widespread ban.

It's a tedious thing you just can't bring in overnight.- Tony Keats

"It's a tedious thing you just can't bring in overnight," Keats said.

Now MNL plans to kick off a letter-writing campaign, and get conversations going with Joyce and all those involved to ensure a plastic bag ban is implemented, one way or another.  

"We got no trouble being at the table when it's necessary to see that this ban is successful."

The City of St. John's has voted in favour of banning plastic bags several times over the years, but Mayor Danny Breen has said council doesn't have the power to legislate such a ban, and that the power rests with the provincial government.

Sheilagh O'Leary says the City of St. John's spends thousands of dollars a year on litter screens to keep plastic bags from blowing out of the landfill.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary has said the province uses 100 million single-use plastic shopping bags each year.

With files from On The Go