It has only been a few short weeks since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to ban single-use plastics across Canada by 2021. The blanket ban, which is yet to be finalized, will prohibit the use of single-use plastics such as straws, bags, cutlery, balloons and cotton swabs. However, one province has moved a step ahead by enforcing their own plastic bag ban - PEI.

As the country waits patiently to learn exactly what items will be banned under Trudeau’s ambitious new initiative, Prince Edward Island is already ahead of the game.

Prince Edward Island has become the first province in Canada to introduce a plastic-ban that is in place across the whole province, not just in certain cities or towns. Their ‘Plastic Bag Reduction Act’ came into effect on Canada Day and will prohibit businesses in the province from providing single-use bags at the checkout.

Instead of offering their customers single-use plastic bags, businesses in Prince Edward Island will now be required to provide paper bags or high-quality reusable bags. The province says that this new initiative will result in less waste, as the new bags offered will be strong, durable, and, most importantly, reusable.

While the ban has now officially come into place, it may be a few weeks before customers will notice a considerable difference in all local stores. The province has allowed businesses to continue to use up all of their existing plastic bag stock before they make the transition over to reusable and paper bags.

According to the legislation, a customer must first confirm that they need a bag before any bag at all will be provided, and then a fee must be charged for both paper and reusable bags. For paper, the fee should be 15 cents, and for a reusable bag the fee should be at least $1. The fine for a business that does not follow this protocol correctly could be up to $10,000.

There will also be a number of exceptions to the ban, so in certain circumstances, plastic bags will be permitted. Stores will be allowed to provide plastic bags for fresh produce, meat, fish, bulk items such as nuts, grains and candy, and any large items that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag, such as bedding and linen.

While this move is undoubtedly a victory for the environment, Jordan Keenan, of the Plastics Oceans Foundation Canada, told CTV News that these blanket plastic bag bans can be difficult to enforce. He said, “I live in Montreal (and) we’ve had a plastic bag ban here for a while, yet you can still get plastic bags, pretty much everywhere.”

While the true impact of the province's new ban is yet to be seen, there is no doubt that it is a step in the right direction for waste-reduction and green initiatives in Canada. 

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