Nova Scotia

Battle of the bylaw: Plastic ban for Lunenburg still a ways off

While the volunteer group Plastic Free Lunenburg says a proposed bylaw to ban single-use plastics in the town is dead, the mayor says council just needs more time to work out the details.

'Saying that something needs more research or consultation is really just a way of putting things off'

Teresa Quilty with Plastic Free Lunenburg says a plastic ban is needed because voluntary measures alone won't get rid of plastic pollution. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

The volunteer group Plastic Free Lunenburg is going to have to keep waiting for its town to actually become plastic-free. 

At a meeting Thursday night, the town council decided more research and study would be needed before it went forward with a proposed bylaw to ban single-use plastics in the community. 

"It looks to us like they are just really are delaying and stalling," said Teresa Quilty, a co-founder of Plastic Free Lunenburg.   

"Sending something back for more study, or saying that something needs more research or consultation is really just a way of putting things off," she said. 

Plastic Free Lunenburg has been working for the past year with community groups and businesses to cut down on the amount of single-use plastics. And many organizations in the town have begun to transition away from plastics on their own, said Quilty.

A bylaw is needed because it would force groups who aren't reducing their plastic waste to step up, she said. 

Teresa Quilty is the co-founder of Plastic Free Lunenburg. (Submitted by Teresa Quilty)

"If voluntary measures worked, we wouldn't have plastic pollution problems," said Quilty. 

But the bylaw isn't dead, according to Lunenburg mayor Rachel Bailey. 

She said it's still in the works. 

"Because they are ready for the bylaw, they don't appreciate that we have many more i's to dot and t's to cross than they may fully appreciate. But that doesn't mean we're at odds. I think we're very much aligned." 

It's a complicated process to implement this kind of bylaw and Bailey said after getting advice from a lawyer, councillors realized they needed to get more information before they tried to put the bylaw on the books. 

In a letter submitted to the town council, lawyer Peter Rogers with McInnes Cooper outlined some of the risks of being the first municipality to enact such a ban. 

He said an opponent of the ban would be more likely to challenge an early adopter of this kind of legislation — particularly one who is "not fiscally powerful and lacks a large tax base over which to spread the costs of defending the legislation in the courts."

Rachel Bailey is mayor of the Town of Lunenburg. (CBC)

Rogers said most likely, the bylaw would be found to be within the town's authority, however there was a risk he could be wrong. 

"Having said this, I would be pleased to defend such a bylaw if the town proceeds and am cautiously optimistic about the outcome," his letter stated. 

Bailey said council also needs to meet with various groups inside and outside the community to determine how to best craft a waste and plastic reduction strategy. They hope to meet with groups like Divert Nova Scotia, Lunenburg Board of Trade, Region 6 Waste Management and even Plastic Free Lunenburg. 

But that's not a meeting Quilty wants, at least not right now. 

"There would have to be something significant that would change that would make us believe that there's actually a path forward, so until we see that we will put our energy where we truly can partner and collaborate with others."     

There's no word on how long it will take the town staff to do the additional research and consultation the council wants. 

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