The blight of plastic grocery bags polluting Prince Edward Island’s land and sea is finally coming to an end. The purpose of the Plastic Bag Reduction Act, which passed last week, is to eliminate single-use checkout bags and to reduce waste and environmental damage. It’s a bill worthy of Islanders’ full support.
This province is the first in Canada to banish plastic bags from its jurisdiction and our MLAs deserve applause for unanimously supporting the legislation. It started as a private member's bill introduced by Liberal backbencher Allen Roach. And now the house will look at extending the ban. Opposition MLA Steven Myers is proposing to have a legislative committee look into reducing other single-use plastic in P.E.I. including coffee cup lids, disposable cutlery, Styrofoam plates and plastic straws. P.E.I. must do more to become a leading province for the environment. It’s all the start of something very good.
While consumer opposition to a ban in P.E.I. has largely been overcome, businesses remain concerned about costs and implementation. Several years ago, supermarkets tried to limit plastic bags by charging customers a fee at checkouts. There was considerable pushback and threats of boycotts, so that idea was dropped.
Consumers’ attitudes have changed. Dire warnings about plastics threatening our oceans and marine life have hit home. The constant sight of plastic bags entangled in fences across the Island is depressing. We are willing to go the extra step to protect the environment and clean up our province.
Island Waste Watch can certainly claim credit about reducing plastic needlessly going to landfills. The launch of the source-separation program in 2002 helped Islanders reduce waste going to landfills by 50 per cent. According to Statistics Canada, Islanders lead the nation by diverting an average of 429 kilograms of waste per person to recycling or organic processing.
This bill will be a lasting legacy for Mr. Roach, who is not re-offering in the next election. The former finance minister said it’s been a concern for him personally for a long time, because plastic waste has been doing significant, possibly irreparable damage to our waterways.
The law will be implemented gradually, and by Jan. 1, 2020, stores can only sell reusable or paper bags. While many agree that it's a move in the right direction, the Retail Council of Canada is crying foul. It says it was not consulted before the bill was put forward - the sector the bill is going to impact the most.
But there are many other positives. Just last weekend in Quebec, most members of the G7 – except the U.S. and Japan - signed on to an agreement to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans and cut down on the usage of single-use plastics. There are calls for a Canadian national plastics strategy, including a total ban on plastics that can’t be recycled.
And it all started here on P.E.I. where our MLAs were quick to accurately gauge the support of Islanders. We take great pride in doing our part in saving Planet Earth.