Oct. 31st, 2018
To: The Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Andrew Parsons
Re: Municipalities NL’s request for a provincial ban on single-use plastic bags.
We write to you on behalf of the St. John’s chapter of the Council of Canadians.
The Council of Canadians is a national organization committed to social and environmental justice. Each chapter is given discretion as to how best they can achieve that. In other words, we get to pick our own topics. Our chapter has chosen to focus on the emerging plastic waste crisis and more specifically single-use plastic bags.
We would like to give you some reasons why the province needs to act now and introduce a province wide ban on single-use plastic bags.
The Scope of the Problem
Our understanding is that several industry groups have asked the province to consider alternatives to a ban. We’re curious as to just what those alternatives could be. According to figures cited in a 2013 Huffington Post article1, the cost of recycling 1 tonne of plastic bags was estimated at $4000 while the recycled product had a worth of approximately $32. Recycling has never really been a financially viable option and is unlikely to become one.
In reality, plastic bags collected rather than dumped in landfills have, to a large extent, been shipped offshore, mostly to China. But China is no longer willing to accept “dirty” plastics, including single-use bags. The North American recycling industry is now in crisis, scrambling to find other countries where our plastic trash can be dumped. That’s going to get more and more difficult to do as the world awakens to the scope of the plastic epidemic.
The growing momentum worldwide for a ban
Last week the European Parliament voted to legislate a ban on, not just bags, but on a wide range of other single-use plastics. This very broad ban will come into effect in 2021. Bans or levies on plastic bag use have already been implemented in around 60 countries according to a UN report published in June.
We expect the European decision to provoke other OECD jurisdictions to act. In Canada PEI has already legislated a ban on the kind of single-use bags used at store check-out counters. Beginning next July, there will be a 15 cent levy on paper or plastic bags consumed in PEI stores.
An opportunity to be progressive with very little downside
With all our Muskrat Falls problems and our increasing dependency on the oil industry, government has been having a hard time looking progressive. Have you considered how becoming one of the first provinces to ban plastic bags could help to change that perception?
But perhaps most importantly, we are a people and a province that promotes, celebrates and takes great pride in the pristine nature of our land and sea. We need to try to keep it like that. That is the biggest reason of all for legislating a provincial ban on plastic bags.
Marilyn Reid on behalf of the St. John’s Chapter of the Council of Canadians
Cc: Deputy Minister Jamie Chippett, the Hon. Ches Crosbie and the Hon. Gerry Rogers