The City of Halifax has voted yes to a motion that would look at banning plastic bags in municipalities across the province.
It's an extreme measure, and one that supporters say needs to happen quickly.
“The UN environment program has declared this as a global crisis. We need to take immediate action,” says Shannon Arnold of the Ecology Action Centre. “There's so much plastics going into the ocean now that they're saying by 2050, there might be more plastic by weight than there are fish in the ocean.”
Every year Canadians use nearly 15 billion plastic bags, with Nova Scotians use up to 500 million. Banning the bags could help the environment and lessen our reliance on China, where we used to send the bags to be recycled. But China isn't taking them anymore.
Hopping bags are considered “film plastic,” and when they’re recycled they end up at the recycling plant. But there’s now a backlog of 300 bales worth of plastic bag.
The bales are in storage, but as the plastic sits it degrades. Now that the city is looking for a new buyer for the recyclables, they need to get rid of the bales fast.
“You don't want to send them a bad load of material. That would put you in a bad light, and then they might not take any more of your material. You really want to make sure that whatever doors you open, stay open,” says Matt Keliher, manager of Solid Waste with the City of Halifax.
In 2016, the Halifax Regional Municipality made $2.1 million selling recyclables. More than half of that money came from China.
The backlog of film plastic could lose the city millions, and it's becoming a hazard.
“In order to create the space at our facilities right now, to process the Christmas boom of recyclables that come in, we need this material moved offsite or to a landfill,” says Keliher.
But that isn't easy. The province has a ban on plastic film in landfills. The GFL facility in West Hants has petitioned for permission to take it, but if the province says no, the city doesn't have many options left.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.