Nova Scotia

Halifax council not sold on proposal to ban plastic bags

Halifax regional council has backed away from a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags, which was put forward by Coun. Tony Mancini at Tuesday's meeting.

Coun. Tony Mancini raised the issue at Tuesday's meeting

Halifax councillor Tony Mancini says the municipality needs a long-term solution for its plastic bag problem now that China won't accept them. (Danny Johnston/Associated Press/Canadian Press)

Halifax regional council has backed away from a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags in the city.

The proposal, put forward by Coun. Tony Mancini, was the subject of nearly two hours of sometimes testy debate Tuesday afternoon.

While some councillors supported Mancini's proposal, others voiced concerns about the consequences of such a ban.

They said eliminating the bags would pose problems for dog owners who use them to clean up after their pets.

It would also be problematic, they said, for the city itself because residents are told to dispose of their old newspapers by putting them in plastic grocery bags at the curb.

In the end, council voted to ask staff to prepare a report on the logistics and feasibility of banning plastic bags, while at the same time urging the province to consider a provincewide ban.

Coun. Tony Mancini points to cities like Montreal and Victoria, which have already banned plastic bags. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Halifax has been struggling with what to do with plastic bags for months now that China has stopped accepting the material.

"We need to be creative. We need to be bold," Mancini said ahead of Tuesday's meeting. "We've been a leader [in recycling]. Banning plastic bags will maintain us as a leader."

The province has given the city permission to send to the landfill tonnes of backlogged plastic that had begun deteriorating, but Mancini said the municipality needs a long-term solution.

"Montreal's doing it, Victoria has done it, so there are lessons we can learn," said Mancini, who added that the ban could be phased in.

Bad for wildlife, bad for us

Mark Butler, policy director for the Ecology Action Centre, applauds that stand.

"It's a great thing. It's the most responsible thing we could do," said Butler.

A ban on plastic bags will mean using less fossil fuels to produce them and less waste in the environment.

Mark Butler with the Ecology Action Centre says a ban is 'the most responsible thing we could do.' (CBC)

"It's bad for wildlife and it's bad for us," said Butler. "If microscopic plastic gets into seafood, we end up consuming it."

According to a report before council on Tuesday, Nova Scotians use between 300 and 500 million plastic shopping bags every year.

Should be led by retailers

The Retail Council of Canada would prefer if governments allowed the industry to come up with its own options for reducing the use of plastic. The organization also believes if fees are charged to discourage the use of plastic bags, then they should be administered by retailers. 

A spokesperson for the Atlantic division of the council added that if there is a ban, retailers want one that is provincewide.

If it's done on a municipal level, it could create a really hairy situation, especially for chain retailers.Jim Cormier, Retail Council of Canada

"If it's done on a municipal level, it could create a really hairy situation, especially for chain retailers," said Jim Cormier.

Mancini agrees it would be better to ban plastic bags across Nova Scotia, which is why his motion included contacting the Department of Environment. But the councillor also doesn't think Halifax has to wait for the province and could "lead the way."

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the department said the province is open to working with municipalities and the industry to reduce the use of plastic bags.

According to Chrissy Matheson, the environment minister has already met with the chairs of solid waste regional committees.

"No decisions have been made, but all options are on the table," wrote Matheson.

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

With files from Blair Rhodes

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.