'Little spark that would start something': P.E.I. single-use plastic bag ban now in effect

As of July 1, shoppers in P.E.I. won't find many single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter. The Island is the first province in Canada to ban one-time use plastic bags

Prince Edward Island the first province to ban single-use plastic bags

Inside the Island Craft Council in Charlottetown, shoppers are asked to bring their own bags. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

As of July 1, shoppers in P.E.I. won't find many single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter. The Island is the first province in Canada to ban single-use plastic bags.

The changes are part of the Plastic Bag Reduction Act, which began as a private member's bill, put forward by then Liberal MLA Allen Roach. 

Roach said he's thrilled to see how Islanders have embraced the change. 

"I didn't think it was going to be the answer for everything," said Roach. "But I thought this would be the little spark that would start something and make it grow and it certainly has done that."

The former MLA said he came up with the idea after noticing the amount of plastic that was ending up in waterways around P.E.I.. After doing some research, he became more convinced it was time for P.E.I. to make a change. 

"There is a place for plastic in society, there's no question about it and we certainly do need it," explained Roach.

"But we did not need the worst of them all which is the one-time use plastic bag." 

Some exceptions

The new rules prohibit businesses in Prince Edward Island from offering single-use plastic bags at the checkout. They have been replaced with paper or reusable bag options. Businesses are now required to charge a minimum of 15 cents for a paper bag and $1.00 for reusable bags.

There are a few exceptions: Businesses are allowed to offer small plastic bags for food safety, medications, and dry cleaning. 

Former MLA Allen Roach introduced the legislation that became the Plastic Bag Reduction Act. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Companies are also allowed to use up the plastic bags they've already purchased.

Island Activewear owner Phillip Tweel said many businesses still have lots of plastic bags in stock. He said the change won't impact his business very much. 

"It's just moving the plastics into paper," said Tweel.

P.E.I. retailer Phillip Tweel said the change is a good step forward. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC )

"It's really not a lot. Just we have to use up what we have."

Roach said many Island businesses began the switch to reusable or paper bags a long time ago. 

"Once it started to catch on, it was very rewarding," he said. "I knew there was no stopping it then."

The federal government also has plans for a ban on plastic bags and other single-use plastic products by 2021. 

More P.E.I. news


Stephanie vanKampen


Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen


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