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Regional reps to discuss waste plastic concerns Friday in Debert

The growing stockpile of waste plastic film products at the Materials Recovery Facility in Kemptown has reached the point where they have run out of indoor storage space.
The growing stockpile of waste plastic film products at the Materials Recovery Facility in Kemptown has reached the point where they have run out of indoor storage space. - Harry Sullivan

TRURO, N.S. – Discussion on the future of plastic bags in Nova Scotia will be top of mind when representatives from the province’s seven municipal regions gather in Debert Friday.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us to talk about reducing the use of bags,” said Colchester County Councillor Tom Taggart who is also the elected regional representative for the municipalities of Colchester, Cumberland and East Hants.

“It’s pretty clear to me that we are in a little bit of a challenge or a crisis here.”

Film plastics, such as grocery bags, are banned from landfill sites in Nova Scotia. Colchester and other municipalities across the province have been forced to stockpile the waste since last summer when China announced a ban on such imported products.

Halifax Regional Municipality was recently granted a temporary exemption from the Department of Environment to allow film plastic to go to a landfill but so far, that is the only municipality to receive permission.

Colchester staff have written the province for a similar exemption but have yet to receive word.

Taggart said he and the other regional representatives met last week with Environment Minister Iain Rankin, who posted the question of whether he thought the province’s constituents would support a ban on plastic bags.

That prospect was also tabled this week at a Halifax Regional Municipality council session. And while Taggart said the province and municipal units have to work together to create a solution to the growing plastic waste problem, he’s not certain that rushing to implement an outright ban is the ultimate solution.

“We really have to be cautious here,” he said, of the far-reaching consequences that a ban on plastic bags could create for retailers and consumers alike.

While such a ban might cover grocery bags, it wouldn’t necessarily apply to all the other types of plastic food containers or wraps, including the many pallet-based products that are also covered in film plastic.

Taggart believes one of the reasons China put a ban on imported waste plastics is due to the dirty state of some of the materials it was receiving. And given the world demand that remains for the products Chinese manufacturers were creating from recycled plastic, Taggart fully believes a market will eventually be reestablished.

“The world didn’t stop using recycled resins. We’re still using as much as ever,” he said. “Sooner or later they are going to want that back and they are probably going to come to the people who did a good job first.”

In the meantime, Taggart feels it is both imperative for residents to continue recycling their waste plastics and for municipal units not to be too hasty in burying the product in their landfill sites.

“We are going to try to work together to solve this issue,” Taggart said, of his regional counterparts. “And I really think it’s important that we do that with the public and the retailers too.”

But the message also has to be made, he said, that society has to find ways to reduce its reliance on plastics that are created for one-time use.

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