Islanders tackle plastic waste problem in 'Waves of Change' public forum

Dozens of Islanders packed into the Guild in Charlottetown Tuesday night, to share ideas on how to reduce plastic waste, and lessen its detrimental impact on the environment. The forum was organized by CBC, as part of its Waves of Change series.

'I think that's how we're all going to get through this, by sharing information with each other'

Dozens of Islanders packed into The Guild in Charlottetown, for a forum on how to cut out plastic waste. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Dozens of Islanders packed into the Guild in Charlottetown Tuesday night, to share ideas on how to reduce plastic waste, and lessen its detrimental impact on the environment. The forum was organized by CBC, as part of its Waves of Change series. 

"I think that's how we're all going to get through this, by sharing information with each other," said CBC producer Jane Adey.

To kick off the forum, Adey presented a CBC Land and Sea documentary she produced called Ocean Devotion. 

Jane Adey, a CBC producer, presented a Land and Sea documentary she produced, exploring how residents and businesses in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia have come together to cut down on plastic waste in the town. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

It explores the many efforts residents and business owners in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia have made to cut back on plastic — from a local distillery cutting out plastic shot glasses, to a cafe banning plastic water bottles and using biodegradable takeout containers.   

Other businesses have followed their lead. 

"You learn something new, and then you pass it onto a neighbour, or your pass it onto a friend. That way, more people can make more changes," explained Adey. 

'It's the little things that add up'

She was joined on stage by P.E.I. environment minister Richard Brown and mother-of-five Rachel Willcock, who started a blog last summer about her journey to cut back on plastic. 

Rachel Willcock, a mother-of-five who blogs about her journey to cut out plastic, told the audience that all the little changes add up. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

She explained to the audience the many "little things" she's done — like buying much of her food in bulk, and carrying it in recycled yogurt containers and cloth bags. 

"You have to reduce what you bring into your home and what you consume," she said. "It's these little things that add up in the long run as you go along."

P.E.I. bag ban not enough? 

Some at the forum challenged the environment minister on what more the P.E.I. government could be doing to help. 

P.E.I. will become the first province in Canada to ban plastic checkout bags province-wide, starting this July.   

""It's great that we've banned plastic bags," one audience member said to Brown. "But there's a lot of countries that have done a lot more, like banning straws, and single use cutlery. It's great we're taking action, but this is time sensitive."

"If you go too fast, you lose people. If you go too slow, you lose people," the minister said in response. "I think we're going at the right mode. I think when the success of the plastic bag ban materializes, then we'll move extremely fast in other areas."

11-year-old Adam MacDonald says he hopes to be a fisherman when he grows up. But he worries there won't be many fish around, given there's so much plastic winding up our oceans. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

'We could have no fish'

11-year-old Adam MacDonald said, he was encouraged by the discussion at the forum. 

He says he dreams of being a fisherman when he grows up. But he worries all the plastic waste winding up in the ocean could make it a challenging career. 

"So this [discussion] is very important.  Without all this stuff being done, we could have no fish."

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About the Author

Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.

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