NB is the only province in the Atlantic that has yet to enforce the provincial ban on plastic bags
Depending on where you live – or which grocer you prefer – you may already be in the habit of bringing reusable shopping bags on your weekly New Brunswick grocery store.
This is despite the province being the only one in Atlantic Canada not to ban plastic bags province-wide.
The Moncton, NB, and Saint John, NB areas have each implemented bylaws prohibiting the use of plastic bags.
Dieppe, NB, Riverview, NB, and Moncton by-laws have been in effect since October 1, 2020. Nine months later, Saint John, Grand Bay-Westfield, NB, Hampton, NB, Quispamsis, NB, Rothesay, NB, and St. Martins, NB, did the same.
“July 1 struck, and it fell silent – nothing!” said Brenda MacCallum, public relations and program development officer for the Fundy Region Service Commission. “Everyone just adopted him. It was as if there was nothing new. People knew what to do. I think we’ve been talking about it for so long, we’ve seen it in so many other jurisdictions and it was obvious.
MacCallum said that before the settlement, about 35 million plastic bags were used each year in the Fundy region.
Today they don’t necessarily see zero, but it’s close.
“We didn’t have an end market for these plastic bags, so now they’re pretty much gone. You see very, very little of that on the plastic bag side,” she said. we’ve basically removed that. We know we can do that – so what else can we consider to remove from that consumption stream?”
Prince Edward Island’s ban has been in place since July 1, 2019, Newfoundland and Labrador’s came into effect July 1, 2020, and Nova Scotia’s began July 30. October 2020.
New Brunswick plans to introduce a program that will place financial responsibility for packaging and paper waste on the producer of the product itself – called the “Extended Producer Responsibility Program”. It’s not new – already adopted in five other provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia.
The program won’t be in place until early 2023, but Lois Corbett of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick says she’s already noticed some major retailers changing their packaging.
“Walmart now has its own cloth bag – it’s a big change for Walmart,” she said. “I see you can buy some brands of paper towels in brown paper wrappers now, as opposed to the big big plastic containers that would hold six or 12 rolls.”
However, Corbett says nothing in the new regulations prevents the province from introducing an outright ban on plastic bags.
” So it’s good. The regulations are flexible enough that when there are enough calls and support for an individual product ban – maybe it’s dangerous, like a plastic bag – maybe it’s all over the beaches , like a plastic bag — maybe it’s not recyclable, like a plastic bag — then the province can add that layer to their extended producer responsibility program,” she said.
According to the council, approximately 40% of household waste in New Brunswick “is made up of packaging and paper products such as cereal and detergent boxes, plastic containers, newspapers and advertising flyers.”
A spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government said they are waiting for Ottawa to act before deciding whether a province-wide ban is necessary.
“In December 2021, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) published draft regulations banning certain single-use plastics for public review and comment,” said Alysha Elliot. “New Brunswick is currently awaiting the outcome of the federal consultation process on the proposed federal regulations to determine if further provincial regulations are required.
The City of Fredericton is doing the same – a spokesperson said the city expects a decision from the province and federal government by the end of 2022.
Shasta Stairs said Fredericton held consultations on the issue in early 2021 with local businesses and there is support.
“However, from a schedule perspective, local businesses were struggling, and continue to struggle, due to the impacts of COVID and needed more time to adjust their plans,” she said in a statement. .
Corbett says, in his view, the plastic bag is approaching its “last legs” anyway.
“I guess we could take the public policy option of just sitting back and letting it die a natural death, or we could be proactive and just ban it,” she said.