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Advocates hope plastic bag ban ‘just the beginning’

The provincial government announced a ban on the distribution of retail plastic bags on Tuesday. The ban will take anywhere from six months to a year before it’s fully implemented.
The provincial government announced a ban on the distribution of retail plastic bags on Tuesday. The ban will take anywhere from six months to a year before it’s fully implemented. - Joe Gibbons
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

“Plastic bags are everywhere,” she said.

Joan Fitzgerald spent part of her Tuesday cleaning up around the Virginia River Trail in St. John’s.

Around the same time that she was picking up a myriad of plastics and other garbage, the province announced a ban on retail plastic bags.

Relief filled Fitzgerald’s voice when she said it’s an “absolutely, 100 per cent” positive step.

But single-use plastic bags are just one of many items she finds during her regular cleanups.

“I would like to see a ban on all single-use plastics,” she said, including items such as plastic packaging at grocery stores, plastic utensils, Styrofoam and so on.

Fitzgerald is not alone.

Janny Van Houwelingen is a retired nurse and longtime volunteer with the East Coast Trail Association. She has participated in numerous cleanups and has contacted various levels of government on the issue of single-use plastics.

“It’s not by any means enough, but it’s a beginning, and I’m glad that (as) part of that announcement they said they were going to look at other things,” Van Houwelingen said.

The provincial government made the announcement Tuesday afternoon after three weeks of public consultations.

Results of that public engagement indicated 87 per cent of respondents were in favour of a retail plastic bag ban. Amendments were introduced to allow the government to draft regulations to ban the distribution of retail plastic bags.

The regulations will address how long businesses will need to adjust to the change, what types of alternatives people will have available instead of the plastic retail bags, whether to require a fee on alternatives to limit their overconsumption, and which exceptions are required.

It’s anticipated to take anywhere from six months to a year before the ban is fully implemented.

Van Houwelingen said she’s proud that the government is moving in this direction and would like to see it implemented as soon as possible.

“I’d like to see it pushed through before an election. I’d hate to see it stall and then who knows how the election will go, and then do we have to start all over again with this question?” she said.

“Maybe that’s just the way the world goes, but I think the best thing is for every party to jump on and say, ‘Absolutely, this is what we’re doing – if this doesn’t get done now, we’re going to do this first thing.’

“The public sentiment seems to be in favour of it and, my goodness, the environment certainly needs it. It’s just the beginning.”

The provincial government and the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board are also working toward establishing an extended producer responsibility program for the management of packaging and printed paper.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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