Environment Minister Graham Letto says to expect a decision on a provincewide plastic bag ban in the next few weeks.
“Right now, we haven’t completed the work that needs to be done in order to reach a decision. We’re continuing to meet with different stakeholders. We’ve consulted with them. We certainly do hear the public cry. There’s been significant campaigns put on by (Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador)” he said.
“One way or the other, I think we’ll be making the decision sometime in the near future.”
When pressed, Letto says to expect the announcement “within weeks,” rather than months.
The campaign led by Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador has been ramping up in recent weeks. March 11 will be a day of action to call for the ban for the organization.
To date, six municipalities have issued their own single-use plastic bag ban in one way or another.
Earlier this year, Twillingate and New World Island announced their version of the ban, after 1,500 fabric bags were donated to local grocery stores by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The small town of Mary’s Harbour in Labrador announced its own plastic bag ban in June 2018.
Elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Halifax is moving toward implementing its own plastic bag ban, which could come into effect as early as December.
Letto says consulting with industry — particularly local grocery stores — is primarily the holdup on a decision. He says the government wants to make sure everyone is prepared, should a ban be announced.
“We have to get a clear indication from independent businesses, the small businesses out there that use this material. We have to look at a transition period. We have to look at different things, take all that into consideration,” said Letto.
“Businesses are supposedly in a lot of cases struggling as we speak. We don’t want to put additional burden onto them. I think it’s clear that the public wants to see a ban.”
Letto says while plastic bags may not be the Number 1 polluter in the province, the ban is something the public is pushing.
“It’s a very low percentage of the waste stream, but it’s something that’s very visible. It’s something that’s very harmful to the environment, especially to the marine environment,” he said.
“We want to make sure before we make any decision that we’ve consulted properly with the stakeholders involved.”
The focus right now is on plastic bags, but Letto says there could be consideration of other potential pollutant bans.
“We’re taking everything into consideration. You talk about the cups, but I think the plastic is what’s the danger to the environment, to marine life and birds,” he said.
“At this point, we’re looking at all that.”
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