Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to ban single-use plastic bags

The Nova Scotia government has introduced legislation to ban single-use plastic bags.

Act tabled on opening day of fall session of legislature will take effect in a year

Nova Scotia is banning single-use plastic bags. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The Nova Scotia government is moving to ban single-use plastic bags.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson introduced legislation on the opening day of the fall session of the provincial legislature that would implement a ban in a year's time.

The delay will allow retailers and consumers time to adjust.

"It's going to change the way that we go to grocery stores; it's going to have people thinking differently about plastics," Wilson said at Province House after the bill was introduced.

"So I'm very excited about this as an opportunity for us to move forward."

News welcomed by environmentalists

The legislation was welcomed by environmentalists, including the Ecology Action Centre. The organization was on hand for the bill's introduction.

"Now plastic bags are a relatively small proportion of the waste stream, but when it comes to the environment and wildlife I think they have a bigger impact," said Mark Butler, the centre's policy director.

"We've all seen plastic bags caught up in trees on beaches … so plastic bags can have a disproportionate impact on wildlife."

Even retailers accepted that the move was probably inevitable given current public sentiment.

"We understand that everybody has an environmental footprint," Jim Cormier of the Retail Council of Canada told reporters. "Our members do as well and we're working to ensure that we reduce that footprint."

Jim Cormier of the Retail Council of Canada said retailers are aware of public sentiment about plastic bags. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

He said members of his organization appreciate the year's delay because it will give them time to use up their supply of bags.

Cormier said retailers recognize there are trade-offs no matter what type of bag is used.

"Yes, it's going to be an increased cost but overall a lot of my members, of course, they're also very worried about their corporate social responsibility," he said.

"And when it comes to the environmental file, that has, in recent years, vaulted up the ladder when it comes to the importance on the corporate social responsibility side of things."

Some exceptions to the rule

There will be exceptions to the new legislation.

The thin plastic film that dry cleaners use to wrap clean clothes will be exempt. So will the bags garages use to wrap tires.

Other retailers will be able to use plastic bags for things like live fish and bulk purchases.

While the current legislation only deals with plastic bags, Wilson is leaving the door open to adding other single-use plastics in the future, such as straws and utensils.

Nova Scotia's move follows a similar one by Prince Edward Island. Individual communities and retailers like grocery giant Sobeys have also implemented, or are considering, bag bans.

Waves of Change explores the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.