Not a Problem

Plastic Shopping Bags are not a problem that need fixing in Atlantic Canada

A ban on plastic shopping bags would be a drastic measure that will end up hurting the environment and also the Atlantic Region economy.

A bag ban will have the complete opposite impact from what is intended. It is called unintended consequences by scientists and is due to poorly researched policies by governments or politics having no regard for the science and facts.

Study after study by governments at the international, provincial and municipal level shows repeatedly that plastic shopping bags are not a problem that needs to be fixed. In fact, they show that “fixing plastic bags with bans” will create bigger problems – what they call unintended consequences”.

One of those consequences is the ban will force the use of other types of bags with greater negative environmental impacts.

The alternatives are just not better environmentally and will end up costing Martimers millions to buy these substitutes for plastic shopping bags.

There's No Problem Here

Not a waste problem

Plastic bags are not a waste problem.

Plastic shopping bags are not a waste management problem at less than 1% of the waste stream which means that they are not a big component of landfill. (Municipal waste audits across Canada confirm this.)

For example, in Newfoundland, plastic shopping bags are a tiny fraction of the waste-stream at 0.2%. They are such an insignificant part of the waste stream that a ban will have little to no impact on windblown litter. The very serious problem Newfoundland has is windblown litter from landfills not managed properly given its windy climate.

Not a Litter Problem

Plastic bags only 0.4 %, a fraction of all litter.

 Plastic shopping bags are not a litter problem at about only 0.4% –a fraction of 1% of all litter. Data from municipally sponsored litter audits in Canada and the United States, provided by MGM Management, provides evidence that the bags are not a litter problem. Over a period of 14 years, the firm investigated 4,400 audit site locations and out of a total of 102,951 observations found that bag litter plastic retail bags accounted for only 431 bag litter observations, or 0.4% of total large litter observed and documented.

Not a single-use problem

Plastic bags are multi-use and multi-purpose

Incorrectly portrayed as single-use bags in order to promote their removal from the marketplace, the vast majority of plastic shopping bags are reused by Canadians in every corner of Canada.  The primary reuse of plastic shopping bags is to manage household waste.

Reuse rates of conventional plastic bags are very high – 77% in Quebec, 65% in Manitoba, 60% in Ontario and B.C.

They are also reused for a myriad of other purposes – for storage, as lunch bags, to pick up after our pets.

The Alternatives are Worse for the Environment

Paper bags have a much higher negative carbon impact than plastic bags.

In fact, the scientific studies conducted by the U.K. Government Environment Agency, the Government of Denmark, the Government of Quebec and those in the United States show that plastic shopping bags have the lowest carbon footprint and global warming potential. And that paper has a carbon footprint FOUR TO SEVEN times larger than plastic. Which is a catastrophe for those wanting to fight climate change and prevent the acidification of our oceans.

Put another way, paper bags have a global warming potential that is 4-7 times greater than the use of plastic shopping bags.


Reusable Bags Are Not Recyclable in Canada, Plastic Bags Are

Paper bags have a much higher negative carbon impact than plastic bags

Because reusable bags are constructed of a variety of different materials it makes it very expensive and uneconomic to recycle them. They must be taken apart and the various materials sorted before they can be recycled.

The result is that at the end of their life, reusable bags just end up in the garbage as waste and fill up our landfills.


Reusable Bags Have a Much Higher Carbon Footprint Than Plastic

The science shows that the plastic shopping bags have the lowest carbon footprint and global warming potential of all bags on the market.

Every life cycle study (LCA) shows that reusable bags must be reused many, many times to offer an environmental benefit.

According to the Quebec Government LCA, the Polypropylene woven (WPP) and PP non-woven bags (NWPP) need an equivalent number of reuses to equal the thin plastic bag ranging from 16 to 98 and 11 to 59, respectively, depending on the scenario and environmental indicator. The Quebec LCA found cotton bags depending on the impact studied need to be used 100 to 2900 times more than one plastic bag.

The U.K. Government LCA produced similar findings finding that a cotton reusable bag has to be reused 131 times in order to have the same impact on the environment as a plastic shopping bag used just once. Non-woven polypropylene bags would have to be reused 11 times to match the environmental benefit of the conventional thin bag used just once. 2011 U.K. Government Environment Agency Study Report 2011 - “A Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags”

Reusable bags have a carbon footprint 11 times+ greater than plastic shopping bags.