Battle against plastic bags’ contamination an uphill challenge

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The adverse impact of plastic bags on the environment and sea life is finally getting some push-back in Canada. On Jan. 1, 2018 Montreal will become the first large Canadian city to ban single-use plastic bags. Shoppers will be allowed to use thicker re-cycled bags that can be re-used again and again.

A proposed January 2013 launch to ban plastic bags in Toronto was a non-starter, being overturned in November 2012. Retailers were given the option of charging for plastic bags.

Bans have been adapted by some smaller municipalities. Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, was the first to ban bags in March, 2007. Other municipalities taking up the torch include: Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality, Alberta; Thompson, Manitoba; Deux-Montagnes, Quebec; Huntingdon, Quebec; Brossard, Quebec.

Also, some grocery chains in Canada are stepping up to the plate. For instance, Costco has never offered plastic bags to shoppers. Wal-Mart has begun using reusable bags. Chains such as Walmart and Loblaw have started charging five cents a bag in a bid to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bag. Unfortunately, similar programs to ban bags in several countries have met resistance

The use of plastic bags has been rising since the 1950s, which is approximately the time they largely replaced paper bags for carrying groceries. An estimated one trillion plastic bags are used per year in the world. Canada accounts for nine to 15 million of that total.

Fish, turtles, seals and whales are among plastic’s victims in the seas. Chemicals in plastic bags break down and fish mistake them for food and consume it. The chain reaction moves along when larger predators eat them. Then, humans eat the fish. Turtles, seals and whales are also victims.

The case against plastic bags is lengthy:

  • They are toxic and they can infect, starve and kill animals, both in the sea and on land as they choke or get tangled on the plastic.
  • Soil and water are contaminated.
  • Plastic breaks down slowly, so it continues to contaminate for a long time.
  • Soil and water are contaminated.
  • Plastic bags can clog sewers and drainage systems, resulting in stagnant water that enables mosquitoes to breed.
  • Plastic bags made from polypropylene are non-renewable fossil-fuel-based resources, which emit greenhouse gasses that contribute to global climate change.
  • Plastic bags are not easy to recycle and most are not accepted by recycling facilities.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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