Plastic ban draws positive reviews, but switch must be made wisely
On a day when climate was the focus for many, eyes are also on the Nova Scotia government's move to become the third province in Canada to ban plastic bags at store checkouts.
Convenience store owner Mostafa Khallaf hands out hundreds of plastic bags a day.
"We go through a lot of bags, like probably every second customer will take a bag," said Khallaf.
If the provincial government has its way, that will end soon.
Legislation introduced Thursday sets out to ban all single use bags from checkouts a year from now.
"I'm not quite sure what the impact will be on us, on me and other small businesses," Khallaf said. "Is it gonna be more expensive or not sure what the pricing will be compared to plastic bags, but there will be alternatives for sure."
Most customers seem ready to pitch their plastic.
"There's no reason for plastic bags," said James Duplesiss. "I work at a company, where we only use paper bags, we have for years."
Others believe the ban is only a small step to fixing a much larger problem.
"While it's absolutely great for the consumer to use more reusable things," said Paul Warner. "If businesses are still producing a lot of plastic, then we're not making a whole lot of progress here."
Tony Walker, an environmental studies professor at Dalhousie University says it's important to look at the big picture before making a switch.
"The idea would be to not just switch from single use plastics to another single use items, as paper bags have a carbon footprint and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions as well," Walker said.
Canada's plastics producers sent out a statement on the ban, claiming research shows producing and transporting paper bags creates much more carbon dioxide than plastic bags.
Walker believes that research only tells half the story.
"While paper might be more carbon intensive to produce, their afterlife is easily recyclable or compostable if soiled, but that's not the case with plastic, sothese studies don't take into account the afterlife, the disposal and landfill of the plastic bags," Walker said.
Under the proposed law, retailers would still be allowed to use single-use plastic bags for live fish and bulk items. There would also be exemptions for food banks and charities.
Of course this ban will be most noticeable at Atlantic Canada's grocery giants, who say they welcome the change.
Sobey's had previously committed to phasing plastic out of all Canadian stores by the year 2020, and in a statement to CTV News, representatives from Loblaws say they have been working for more than a decade to limit their distribution of plastic bags, and look forward to continuing to work with the government on these changes, and other ways to keep plastic out of the environment.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Allan April.