Canada's single-use plastics ban not enough, N.S. group says
'What would really make a difference ... is if the rope manufacturers, other gear manufacturers were involved'
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A Nova Scotia environmental group wants the federal government to go further with its single-use plastics ban and have more rules in place for the fishing industry.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the ban, which is to take effect by 2021 at the earliest. A full list of what will be banned has not been solidified yet.
A government press release says more than 580,000 tonnes of abandoned, lost or discarded plastic fishing gear enters the oceans every year.
Marc Butler, the policy director at the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said there's currently no incentive for fishermen to bring unwanted gear back to shore.
"If you've got a lot of fishing gear that is no longer usable and you're out on the water, if you bring it in, you have to unload it. You then have to put it in a truck and take it to a dump and pay a tipping fee," he said.
The prime minister said there are plans to make companies that manufacture or sell plastic products take responsibility for recycling their waste.
Butler said there needs to be extended producer responsibility (EPR) for fishing gear. This means the companies that make packaging and other waste would pay, or be responsible, for disposing of it, usually through a recycling program.
"What would really make a difference I think is if the rope manufacturers, other gear manufacturers were involved in recovering gear that can no longer be used," said Butler.
Dan Chassie is the president of Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd., a company that handles construction and demolition waste.
He sees plastic as a valuable commodity and said it's difficult to gauge how a single-use plastics ban could affect his business. He said people who litter are the cause of plastic having a poor reputation.
"I have quite an investment here," said Chassie. "Milk cartons are one of the most recyclable products you can use. Are they single use? I don't think so because if it's collected properly and brought to the proper facility, it can be made into lumber or maybe something higher grade."
"But it can be recycled into a product that can last for 100 years. Is that deemed single use? To me, I don't think so."
Chassie sees plastic as a resource the government is "really missing the boat on."
"The plastic is highly recyclable. The shopping bag that was shown on the news, it's a recyclable material — it just wasn't handled properly," he said.
"And if the government looked at how many jobs could be created in Canada if we become the leaders of processing that waste plastic, there's a whole workforce out there."
Jim Cormier, Atlantic director of the Retail Council of Canada, said he welcomes the single-use plastics ban.
"We've been asking for provincial leadership on this for years," said Cormier.
He said the ideal situation when it comes to a plastics ban would be harmonized procedures where everyone is following the same rules.
"This could turn out to be something that will allow governments to meet some of their environmental goals, it'll allow consumers to potentially allow some cost savings and definitely for retailers as well," he said.
With files from Paul Withers