If they want it, make them pay — then maybe they won’t want it after all.
That’s what Brianne Hunsley is hoping. The 28-year-old Halifax resident wants HRM to introduce a bag levy, forcing consumers to pay for every single plastic bag a store hands them.
“Originally, I thought that banning plastic bags was the way to go, but Nova Scotians still want bags for their doggie waste and to line their kitchen garbage,” Hunsley said. “Plus, many people are resistant to change.”
When Hunsley realized many citizens had a demand for plastic bags, she started researching plastic bag levies. A levy would ensure that those people who wanted plastic bags could have them, but they would be charged for them.
Hunsley started a Facebook group to drum up support, and says charging 25 cents per plastic bag would encourage people to bring their own reusable bags.
“It’s incredible. People can still have their precious plastic bags, but most won’t because they don’t want to pay for them,” Hunsley said. “It’s inspiring people to question their use of plastic bags and hold themselves accountable for their consumption.”
Ireland introduced a bag levy in 2002, and it has reduced plastic bag usage by 90 per cent. Residents there must pay the Canadian equivalent of between 30 and 40 cents for a single plastic bag, so most people keep their cash and bring their own reusable bags.
In September, Pete’s Frootique introduced a bag levy of 5 cents in its Bedford and downtown locations. Owner Pete Luckett says the downtown store went from using 25,000 bags per week to less than 6,000. The money from each plastic bag purchased goes into a fund to make the store a “greener” place.
Heather McKibbon, outreach co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, says a levy could be a positive move for the area.
“If HRM wanted to start taking leadership roles and introduce a levy, I would fully support them,” McKibbon said. “It would be great to be a Canadian leader.”
Clean Nova Scotia special events co-ordinator Carrie Riddell says a levy would help reduce waste, and “reduce” is the most important of the three Rs.
“We always need to try and reduce before we think about reusing and recycling,” Riddell said. “We understand that plastic bags do have a purpose, but if we can find alternatives, that’s a positive for the environment.”
Hunsley says she will continue to fight for a plastic bag levy and wants both levels of government to work together on a plan.
“City council seems more interested in getting musicians to play on the Common than in making long-lasting change,” Hunsley said. “Having a healthy, clean environment is more important than seeing Paul McCartney or Keith Urban or the Rolling Stones.
“We will have no Common for musicians to play on if the environment is ruined.”