Plastic grocery bags have always been a problem.
Now with changes to China’s recycling market, they have become even more of a problem.
As of the end of 2017, the usual markets for recycling plastic bags and all other plastic film, including food wrap, cellophane and packaging, is gone, after China’s National Sword Program banned all plastic film from acceptable recyclables.
With almost all of North America’s recycling going to China, this means big changes, since anyone who is sending their recycling to China will no longer be able to send plastic bags.
One of these companies is Loraas Recycle, based out of Saskatoon. The company announced this month that it will no longer accept plastic bags for recycling.
This impacts our local recycling through React, our regional waste management organization, which ships through Loraas. It means React will no longer be able to take plastic bags for recycling, either.
Canada as a whole uses around 2.86 billion plastic bags a year, according to a Globe and Mail article from 2012. If they are not recycled, plastic bags can become a nuisance, flying around cities and travelling for miles.
As convenient as they may be, the cost to the environment is great.
Lyle Ruf with React in Humboldt says trying to confine plastic bags to landfills is a difficult task, considering that all it takes is one gust of wind for them to escape the confines of the landfill.
This means there is the potential of the same plastic bag having to be put in the garbage time and time again, if it even lands where a person is willing to take care of that.
Considering that plastic floats, and that we have extensive waterways that span the province, especially the North Saskatchewan River that flows all the way to Hudson Bay, there is no telling how much plastic waste can find its way to a major bodies of water, even from land-locked Saskatchewan.
Seas of plastic pollution are wreaking havoc with ocean life.
According to thelaststraw.org, an anti-plastic-straw organization, “80 to 90 per cent of marine debris is plastic, and as much as 80 per cent of that came from plastics discarded on land. Researchers estimate eight million tonnes of plastic garbage enter the oceans from land every year.”
As a country, we have evolved past the need to use plastic bags. Finding alternatives will mean less environmental impact.
The changing regulations in China have created a domino effect in Canada already. Montreal has banned plastic grocery bags starting Jan. 1, 2018, and Victoria will instigate a ban on Jul. 1, 2018.
The two are the first major Canadian cities to completely ban all plastic grocery bags.
This month, Loraas Recycle approached Saskatoon city council to discuss a city-wide ban.
When I was living in Halifax, there was no city-wide ban, but select stores made the choice to not offer plastic bags to customers.
At a No Frills location, for example, boxes were kept at the tills, ready for people to use to take their groceries home.
At other locations, like Atlantic Superstores, customers brought their own reusable bags, and the store did have some for sale if people forgot.
Living without plastic bags is a possibility and, especially now without a recycling option, we need to be looking at alternatives.
It’s time to ban the bag.