Nova Scotia's plastic bag ban will go ahead as planned at the end of the month, Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Tuesday in a media briefing.
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Nova Scotia was set to ban single-use plastic bags at the end of October. That would mean businesses would no longer be able to provide single-use plastic shopping bags at the checkout.
Last month, the Department of Environment said it was considering pushing the date back due to concerns about the use of reusable bags during a pandemic. The department said it was consulting with public health officials on the matter.
Speaking at Tuesday's briefing, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said he's told the department "there's nothing from a COVID reason that would require them to delay that."
However, he added the retail sector does not want another burden as it deals with the impacts of COVID-19. Strang said he did not know when a public announcement on the ban would happen.
McNeil then chimed in: "It will proceed as scheduled." He did not elaborate on the plan.
Retail council OK with ban
In an email, Environment Department spokesperson Barbara MacLean said the department wanted to ensure it had the most up to date public health information before making a decision.
"We have been advised that it is safe to use reusable shopping bags," she said. "Nova Scotians have told us they want our province to continue taking steps to be a leader in waste reduction, and that's what we intend to do."
Jim Cormier, Atlantic director for the Retail Council of Canada, said in an interview that the council is "somewhat agnostic" when it comes to phasing out plastic bags, but he said that Nova Scotia's retailers have had plenty of time to prepare.
"To the credit of the government, they let us know about this last year, so we knew it was coming," said Cormier.
"Most retailers, regardless of size, purchased about a year's worth of plastic bags in advance ... and so we've spent the last year knowing this was coming and exhausting our supplies."
Cormier said the vast majority of retailers are prepared for the change.
He said it's good the ban will be provincewide rather than varying by municipality, so it won't be confusing for people shopping in different towns. He noted that plastic bag bans have already been implemented in P.E.I. and, more recently, in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in some areas of New Brunswick.
"The one thing we've worked with them all on, was, 'Why not harmonize within Atlantic Canada?' And for the most part, they've done that," he said.
"When you're dealing with chain retailers that do business in multiple areas, that makes things a lot easier. You don't have to reinvent the wheel."
The ban takes effect Oct. 30.
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