Because today marks the official start of Nova Scotia's plastic bag ban.
Starting Friday, October 30, businesses can no longer offer single-use plastic bags. Things like bulk items such as nuts and grains and fruits and vegetables will still be allowed to be sold in plastic. But in effort to cut down on the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans each year—the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a load of plastic once every minute—bags will no longer be offered to customers at checkout; they'll be encouraged to use reusable bags.
While for many it’s a joyous occasion, keep in mind this change didn’t happen overnight. Places like China were trying to ban single-use plastic bags since 2008. But the issue didn’t float across Nova Scotia’s radar until 2017. That year, thanks to a waste audit done by Divert NS, it became painfully apparent Nova Scotia had a plastic problem, with plastic accounting for 21 percent of waste in the province.
Shortly after that, China, the primary global dumping ground for paper and plastic, announced a ban on most foreign recycling material, leaving many municipalities with plastic they didn’t know what to do with.
In 2018 Halifax's Environment and Sustainability Committee brought forth a plastic ban strategy to council. This was the first of many steps toward banning plastic bags and other single-use plastic. Eventually, council voted “yes” on the strategy, which would allow them to collaborate with commercial and industrial businesses to reduce waste.
During October of last year, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed legislation to ban all single-use plastic bags. The ban was due to come into effect a year later to give business owners time to prepare.
So here we are—one year later and Atlantic Canada’s biggest city has officially said goodbye to single-use plastic bags. That’s something to be proud about but the work doesn’t stop there.
Marla MacLeod, Director of Programs at Halifax's Ecology Action Centre said in a press release that "this is definitely a moment for celebration, but further action is needed to reduce the amount of plastic produced, or plastics will continue to be an environmental problem. It doesn't stop with a plastic bag ban. We need to look at EPR and start re-thinking our entire relationship with plastic."