The environment and sustainability standing committee is asking council to ban single-use plastic bags in the municipality.
Municipal staff had recommended a voluntary reduction for a year. Instead, the committee told staff to draft a potential bylaw eliminating the distribution of single-use bags. If council approves, the ban will be implemented by July 1, 2019.
According to a staff report, plastic bags put into blue bags and recycled in HRM’s Materials Recycling Facility make up one per cent of the total material composition.
Several residents and business owners showed up to Thursday’s meeting to call for a ban on bags.
Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre, said plastic bags are one of the 10 most common items found on the beach. Butler wants to see the municipality act on the issue first, instead of just educating people.
He thinks a well designed ban would be less harmful to business and business owners as it would give them a clear plan and time to adjust.
“The measure is important to not disadvantage certain groups in the society,” Butler said in an interview.
Kate Pepler, owner of zero-waste café and bulk good store The Tare Shop, said she could decrease expenses by eliminating plastic products. The café offers reusable and travel mugs for coffee and reusable plastic containers for food.
Pepler opened her shop two months ago and said she saved over 4,500 plastic bags and 2,800 disposable cups from entering the waste stream.
“We are just a small business. Imagine if HRM, Nova Scotia and Canada took action and stood up for this issue, it’s a huge impact,” said Pepler during the meeting.
Coun. Steve Streatch opposed the motion and agreed with the reduction strategy, as recommended by staff. He said a voluntary ban is a challenge to residents.
“It is an opportunity for our people to step up. I would like to give them that chance before (we) force something on them,” Streatch said during the meeting.
Jim Cormier, Atlantic director of the Retail Council of Canada, said the retail sector is supporting the Halifax Regional Municipality, even though the ban might not be favourable. Retailers have been working together to manage the use of single-use plastic bags for several years, he said.
“We want the province to take the leadership position on it and have a provincewide ban similar to what they did in Prince Edward Island,” said Cormier in an interview.
Cormier prefers the HRM work with the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities and other independent municipalities to harmonize the process across the province.
The single-use plastic products reduction motion was introduced after the G7 Environment, Oceans and Energy meeting held in Halifax in September. That meeting’s message was that recycling is not enough and countries should find solutions to the plastic problem.