Plastic Bags

Youth group pressures HRM to ban plastic bags

iMatter is tired of reports and wants to see progress on bag ban

iMatter Halifax appeared before the Environment and Sustainability Committee Thursday.   Silas Brown

iMatter Halifax tried to put pressure on the municipality Thursday with a presentation about the environmental harm of plastic shopping bags.

iMatter is a North American group of youth that fight for environmental causes. Members Lily Barraclough and Cameron Yetman appeared before the Environment and Sustainability Committee urging it to support a plastic shopping bag ban in the Halifax Regional Municipality. 

They want to keep the pressure on regional council. The presentation outlined the effect plastic has on marine life and expressed their disappointment that the HRM had dumped 100 tonnes of film plastic into a landfill. 

“Realistically, our main goal was to make sure that this wasn’t pushed out of the way and to make sure that they still understood that this matters,” said Yetman after the meeting.

On Jan. 16, regional council asked for a staff report on banning plastic shopping bags in the HRM. That report is expected to take nine months to a year to complete. 

For iMatter that’s not fast enough.

“I was really hoping for some forward direct action on banning plastic bags,” said Barraclough, the founder of iMatter Halifax.  

“I do understand that municipal processes do entail reports and making sure that everything is perfectly researched and I think that that’s important. (But) they’ve already had a report on the ban and there’s a lot of information there and it could be possible to take this action.”

According to a report ordered by the Environment and Sustainability Committee last year, an estimated 125 to 208 million plastic shopping bags are used in the HRM each year. In the past, recycled plastic bags were exported to the People’s Republic of China, but that country has started to ban film plastic imports.

Coun. Tony Mancini, who put forward the motion on Jan. 16, would also like to see a ban in place sooner.

“I think we’re ready now; I really think we’re ready,” he said before the meeting Thursday. “I don’t think I’ve heard one group or one individual that are opposed to the concept. They’re saying why is it taking so long.”

Mancini said it’s important to young people that the municipality acts on waste. He encouraged both Yetman and Barraclough to continue to stand up for the issues that matter to them.

He added it’s important for the HRM to be appealing to young people, and that being a leader in environmental issues is one part of that.

“We need to be attractive to a younger demographic,” he said. “They want to be able to bike, and get on a bus and walk and they want to live in the downtown core, but they are also very conscious of the environment.”