Federal response to environmental innovation makes no sense

Exemption for innovation

In my former role as the Conservative Environment and Climate Change critic, one of the topics I wrote about a few times was the Liberal government’s proposed ban on single-use plastics.

This ban targeted only certain plastics, including grocery store bags, straws, coffee stir sticks, six-pack can rings, plastic cutlery and specific food-takeout containers.

At the time, I did hear some concerns. However, there was also some support.

The topic of grocery bags arose from several (people) who took the time to contact me. They pointed out that they kept their plastic grocery store bags and would reuse them as garbage bags. They also asked if the move would only force them to purchase plastic garbage bags (that still can be bought) and felt the policy did not make sense because of that factor.

Recently, the Calgary-based Co-Op grocery store chain, working in partnership with Leaf Environmental Products, developed compostable plastic bags made from a biodegradable polymer and a by-product from fermented corn starch.

These new bags require a specialty composting system the City of Calgary has since installed at its municipal landfill. In summary, it is a win-win scenario, where technology helps solve an environmental pollution problem.

There is only one problem, the federal government has, so far, refused to exempt these new biodegradable bags from the single-use plastics ban. To add insult to injury, as a consumer, you can still purchase recycled garbage bags sold in bulk from local retailers. However, you cannot buy a compostable plastic bag from the same retailers at checkout.

The federal ban on single-use plastic bags will go into effect Dec. 20.

From my perspective, this is yet another example of the one-size-fits-all, "Ottawa knows best" approach that lacks common sense and can potentially stifle Canadian environmental innovation.

If this partnership in Calgary invested in the technology to safely break down these compostable bags, why wouldn't the government allow this common-sense, pro-environment innovation to be exempted from the ban?
At times, it appears that the government will stubbornly continue to support environmental policies that favour “sticks” instead of “carrots,” such as the carbon tax and clean fuel standard.

It argues these policies are the best way to incentivize investment in innovation. However, when a municipality uses it scarce taxpayer dollars to install such an investment, the government blocks it. It's a lose-lose-lose proposition for consumers, the Co-Op and the City of Calgary.

My questions to you this week:

Would you support exempting these compostable plastic bags from the single-use plastic ban in regions that invest in the landfill infrastructure to process them properly? Why or why not?

Contact me at [email protected] or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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