Leadership, please!

The ball is in our court. We can’t wait. We’re ready. When you have the opportunity to make change for the better and you don’t do it, you are really no better than those who don’t care.
— HRM Councillor Lisa Blackburn, Sackville-Beaverbank-Lucasville

Moving away from plastic bags and excess packaging? Count us in. At Atlantic Photo, we’ve always been quickly on-board with policies and movements that make sense—for our shop, our customers, and our community. Especially for tomorrow’s community—that of our kids and grandkids.

The vast majority of people—owners and customers alike—would take a stand for a greener approach to retail, and it’s no wonder. We see single-use plastics drifting on the road, clogging up drainpipes, and piling up in our own recycling in the kitchen bin. Most of us feel bad when we forget our reusable bags at the grocery store, or we’re in the midst of collecting more bags and working on better habits. It’s a rare thing, for so many people to be on the same page. But in Halifax, it seems the debate isn’t *should we ban plastics*—but *how* to ban plastics. It’s a question of rollout.

And I’ve got to be honest—as a business owner, I’m getting a little fed up. After almost a year of research and hesitation, Halifax Regional Municipality has stated its intent to drop our use of single-use plastics by 80% in our region. But what many of us in the business community know is that while we appreciate the good intention behind such a move, good intentions don’t go far enough. The bigger the step, the simpler the implementation.

“Ban advocates and councillors have consistently asked the province to implement a Nova Scotia-wide plastic bag moratorium but have been frustrated by the province’s inaction,” reads a piece in The Chronicle-Herald. And that’s the crux of it.

Let’s imagine Halifax goes through with a single-use plastics ban. Good on Halifax! But meanwhile, Truro or Amherst or Kentville or any other of towns and municipalities may be a ‘mixed bag’, pardon the pun. Some might do a partial ban. Others might ship our their recyclables to a new dump as an emergency measure, their recycling centres stuffed to the brim. Others, struggling to reconcile competing interests or priorities, may do nothing to change.

Meanwhile, plenty of retailers have locations all around the province, complicating their approach—in some towns, paper bags. In others, plastic. They’ll face higher costs, a tangled web of rules to interpret and respond to store-by-store. Companies who genuinely want to do the right thing might be penalized by the pressure or lower costs of neighbouring competitors who don’t care to change (unless they absolutely must).

China rang the alarm bell when they stopped accepting our plastic—the biggest exporter of all things plastic said "No More!" to our giant ball of junk. As entire islands made of garbage drift through the Pacific Ocean and molecular garbage gets ingested into our food chain, we all see it pretty clear. It’s time. It’s long past time.

The literally overflowing problem of single-use plastics is one of those rare ones—the solution is pretty straightforward. All it requires is consensus, and big action. Like ripping off the band-aid quickly and decisively.

We need our provincial government—and our federal, for that matter—to show some guts. Just Do It, as Nike says. Either do it across the board, or not at all.

And, to be clear: ‘not at all’ isn’t an option. We want it done.

This is an opportunity to show the world we are serious about making positive change—and not just incrementally, but wide-scale.

At Atlantic Photo Supply, we’ve decided to remove plastic bags from our products as best as we can—sometimes barring the need for a protective casing around canvas or fine art—by March 1, 2019. It’s the right thing to do, and in the meantime we watch the back-and-forth and the inaction with no small amount of frustration. Let’s fix this, and in a big way! We’re doing our part to raise the issue whenever we can. Next up: garbage bags! Let the debate begin.

—Allen

Allen SutherlandComment