Saskatchewan

Federal single-use plastic ban could force cities to develop plans: expert

The federal government's plan to ban single-use plastics in Canada by 2021 is an opportunity for municipal governments to clearly define their own policies, according to the executive director of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council.

Canadian government to ban single-use plastics by 2021

Regina Coun. Bob Hawkins has put forward a motion recommending city officials put together a report outlining the environmental impact of using single-use plastics such as grocery bags and other items. The federal government announced single-use plastics will be banned by 2021. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

The federal government's plan to ban single-use plastics in Canada by 2021 is an opportunity for municipal governments to clearly define their own policies, according to the executive director of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council.

Saskatchewan cities use just as much plastic as any other place and there isn't really a plan yet to address single-use plastics at the municipal levels of government, Joanne Fedyk told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning on Tuesday.

"My first thought was quite frankly, 'Oh, well this will make things easier for all those communities who are trying to figure out what they should do,'" Fedyk said.

Some municipalities outside of Saskatchewan do have strategies for single-use plastics and local businesses have initiatives to reduce use like charging for bags, she noted.

Carmen Hamm, owner of the Taste Restaurant Group operating in Saskatoon, said the group's restaurants already have goals to reduce waste as much as possible. 

They've taken up initiatives like only providing straws with drinks if requested, Hamm said. 

"My personal goal is to get as low as one bag of garbage for each restaurant per day. Restaurants are notoriously wasteful and so we want to do what we can to try to cut back on that," she said.

Amigo's Cantina has also stopped giving out straws for its drinks and the waste reduction effort has largely gone unnoticed, according to owner Jim Clarke.

"Well, we thought we were gonna get quite a bit of feedback or kickback from that and it really has been non-existent," he said. 

"I don't even know if they notice but if they do they're totally accepting and they understand why we're doing it."

Fedyk highlighted a zero-waste grocery store in Saskatoon on the west side, Bulk Basket, which requires people to bring and fill their own containers. There, people pay by weight. 

"It's getting a lot of attention from the people who really care about zero waste and reducing their footprint," Fedyk said.

The federal government made the announcement on Monday. A full list of banned items isn't set in stone, but a government source told CBC News that the list also could include items like cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates and balloon sticks.

Fast-food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, which is similar to white Styrofoam, will also be banned, said the source.

A Saskatchewan without single-use plastics might see a move toward reusable containers, Fedyk said. 

"I think it's a sign that this is an issue for everyone, for the whole country," she said of the government's announcement.

It's important for people to actually go out and buy recycled containers, Fedyk said. Ideally, your spinach container would become another spinach container for example.

"If we're not being the ones who buy these things, then how can the recyclers make a product that no one is buying?"

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning and Bridget Yard

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