Nova Scotia·Waves of Change

Plastic bag ban closer to becoming a reality in Halifax

On Tuesday, regional council directed municipal staff to draft a bylaw by the end of 2019 that would ban single-use plastic bags from being distributed by retail stores.

Municipal staff directed to draft bylaw to ban stores from distributing single-use plastic bags

A shopper leaves a grocery store in 2016 in Brossard, Que. On Tuesday, Halifax Regional Council directed staff to draft a bylaw by the end of 2019 that would ban single-use plastic bags from being distributed by retail stores. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring 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.    

The days of single-use plastic bags in Halifax could be numbered.

Regional council has directed staff to draft a bylaw by the end of 2019 that would ban the bags from being distributed by retail stores.

The move comes despite recommendations that the municipality start with voluntary measures.

Managers involved in recycling also point out that plastic bags only make up one per cent of Halifax's plastic waste.

Still, many councillors believe a ban is an important first step.

"It's a very visible part [of our garbage]," Coun. Sam Austin said Tuesday. "I think there's symbolic importance in shifting public attitudes."

'It may not be the right way'

Other councillors said there is strong support for the move.

"I did a Facebook poll and 376 people took part and 84 per cent of them want a ban," Coun. Lindell Smith said.

The motion to draft a bylaw also directed staff to confer with 10 of the largest municipalities in the province.

Coun. Waye Mason, who is also the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, said close to 15 mayors and wardens have indicated they will take proposed bylaws back to their councils for debate based on what Halifax does.

"It doesn't mean it's going to pass, but they're willing to try," said Mason. "So that's around 75 per cent of the [Nova Scotia] population."

Four councillors voted against the proposal because they would have preferred the municipality try a voluntary approach first. The biggest concern is what could happen to the retail sector.

"It may not be the right way," said Coun. Steve Craig. "I don't want to take a regulatory approach if we don't have to."

Garbage waste: from bags to bins

Council also voted unanimously for a staff report on switching to black and blue bins for recycling and garbage pickup.

Councillors asked for details on the cost of such a move, as well as the implications to the collection system.

Most agreed it would be hypocritical not to consider such a change.

"We should probably do this one first," said Coun. Tim Outhit. "It's not right to say the grocery stores can't hand you a plastic grocery bag, but we'll encourage you to use kitchen catchers, blue bags, clear bags, black bags to put out your garbage every couple of weeks."

Municipal managers said information on the costs may be ready by the end of the year, but a detailed analysis on the changes needed to Halifax's waste system will take much longer.

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

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