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NB Greens, Liberals calling on province to phase out single-use plastic bags

Both the Green Party and the Liberals in New Brunswick are hoping to see the government take some concrete action on adopting legislation to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags when the Legislature resumes next month.
Both the Green Party and the Liberals in New Brunswick are hoping to see the government take some concrete action on adopting legislation to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags when the Legislature resumes next month. - File photo

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA says environment minister not providing clear answers on plastic bag ban

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

The Liberal opposition and the Green Party are both calling on the Higgs government to step up and take action to start reducing the use of plastic bags in New Brunswick.

Both parties are pointing to the success Prince Edward Island has had in eliminating plastic bags from the waste stream as a way to move forward on legislation.

“A plastic bag ban, like the legislation passed in PEI, makes sense to me,” said Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton. “They had a period for businesses and residents to get prepared, and then plastic bags stopped being used on July 1 of this year. PEI opted to still allow people to purchase a paper bag if they forget to bring their own.”

Liberal environment critic Cathy Rogers said PEI made a move to introduce legislation called the Plastic Bag Reduction Act because the Island’s waste management system corporation was having trouble finding a market for recycled bags, largely because China has stopped taking overseas recyclables.

New Brunswick is now experiencing a similar problem. Discarded plastic bags have been piling up since China changed its rules and waste management organizations in this province are at a loss as to what to do them.

“Unfortunately, it’s likely these bags are going to end up in a landfill somewhere,” said Rogers. “That’s obviously not a great outcome for the environment, and we need to do something about it.”

“If we can bring in legislation similar to PEI, the evidence there shows we can virtually eliminate

plastic bags from the waste stream. That’s something we’ll be looking at bringing forward when

the legislature resumes next month.”

Nova Scotia also introduced similar legislation just last month, which will see a ban implemented in a year’s time. The delay will allow retailers and consumers time to adjust.

Mitton said New Brunswick needs to be quicker to act on this issue.

“In June, I asked the Minister of Environment and Local Government if he would ban plastic bags and to provide a timeline for reducing plastic waste, and I did not get clear answers,” she said.

She said Green Party leader David Coon also presented a petition to the legislature in March of this year, with 467 signatures collected by a constituent in his riding, calling for a ban on plastic bags.

“The Minister has repeatedly referred to banning plastic bags as ‘low hanging fruit.’ Generally, you pick the low hanging fruit first, so I’m not sure what he’s waiting for,” said Mitton.

Mitton said while reducing plastic bag use is only a small piece of what needs to be a larger plastic reduction strategy in the province, it is still an issue that needs to be tackled – and soon.

“We need to take into account the pressures we are putting on the ecosystems we rely on to live.”

Mitton also pointed out that many municipalities and retailers across New Brunswick are awaiting provincial leadership on a plastic bag ban.

“We need action at the provincial level to avoid a patchwork of provincial and municipal by-laws with gaps across New Brunswick and across the Maritimes, so that businesses and shoppers will know what they’re dealing with,” she said.

Such legislation would also be welcomed by environmentalists.

Amanda Marlin, executive director of EOS Eco-Energy in Sackville, said EOS supports a ban on plastic bags similar to the ones already implemented in other Canadian provinces, cities and in some businesses.

“Reducing the use of single-use plastics, including plastic bags, will help reduce our impact on the environment including reducing the energy and materials needed to create plastic bags, recycle them and reduce the risk of them becoming micro plastics,” she said.

EOS promotes the use of other longer-lasting alternatives to plastic bags including cloth bags, organic cotton mesh produce bags, and traditional baskets. Marlin said reusable cloth bags can be made from re-used t-shirts, sheets, and other materials.

“Many people are already using reusable bags and there is much support for reducing waste, saving energy and resources, and decreasing our environmental impacts,” she said, “so it would be great to see the province of New Brunswick support a ban on plastic bags.”

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