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EDITORIAL: In the bag

A discarded plastic grocery bag is caught in a tree in central Halifax. (Tim Krochak)
- Tim Krochak

It’s easy to do the right thing when you have no other options.

That is the reality Islanders will soon face when we become the first province to officially ban single-use plastic checkout bags.

Yes, there will be more to Canada Day on P.E.I. this year than fireworks, music and parties.

That day will also mark the beginning of the end for single-use plastic bags on the Island.

It will be a rough transition for some consumers. Gone will be the days of coming home from the grocery store with plastic bags, then throwing them out or stuffing them under the sink.

It was only a little more than a year ago on June 8, 2018 that then Liberal MLA Allen Roach’s Plastic Bag Reduction Act passed third reading in the legislature and made P.E.I. the first province to ban single-use plastic bags. Besides checkout plastic bags, the province is also outlawing biodegradable or compostable checkout bags. Some exceptions exist for bags bulk items (fruit, vegetables and nuts) or small hardware items, such as bolts and nuts.

In the past year, retailers have been adjusting to the eventual end of plastic bags.

Consumers will likely need a bit more time.

It’s easy to forget to bring reusable bags with you wherever you go on the oft chance that you buy something. If you do forget your reusable bag, you can purchase another one or purchase a paper bag.

But the province doesn’t want people using paper bags either, so they’re making retailers charge customers a minimum of 15 cents for a paper bag and a minimum $1 for a reusable bag.

Charging customers for a paper bag is as ridiculous as charging for plastic bags. When you’re already spending money on groceries, an extra 15 cents isn’t going to break the bank or deter someone from buying and then throwing the bag away after it’s used.

The other option is avoiding bags altogether, cradle your purchases in your arms and hopefully make it to your car without dropping anything.

Unfortunately, the ban didn’t go far enough. We’re still left with single-use plastics, such as spoons, straws and Styrofoam containers.

Some of these are biodegradable. But they look the same as plastic items and often end up in the landfill.

But the good news is banning these items isn’t our concern anymore. The federal government announced on Monday that by 2021, Canada is imposing a ban on single-use plastics.

So, we won’t be the first to ban single-use plastics, but that’s OK.

It’s great to see P.E.I. taking the lead to reduce plastic bags from littering our land, oceans and filling our landfills.

Banning plastic bags is the right thing to do, and something that should have been done a long time ago.

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