Photo: Nathan Denette, The canadian Press
The stores must now provide bags and customers can’t use their own containers or reusable bags in British Columbia.
The new coronavirus has succeeded in slowing down of several efforts across the country to reduce the use of containers-use unique and the pollution they cause.
For example, in mid-January, the government of British Columbia announced that it is considering a broad ban of plastic grocery bags, single-use to put an end to a piecemeal approach, town by town.
But ten weeks later, the deputy chief of the provincial public health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has issued guidelines saying exactly the opposite.
The stores must now provide bags and customers can’t use their own containers or reusable bags.
The fear of contamination
Across the country, the fear of contamination of the reusable packaging and the need to work with a reduced staff while minimizing the interactions between the people, prompting many retailers to ban the reusable packaging, from bags to coffee mugs.
The restaurants were forced to offer only dishes for takeaway, which has stimulated the demand of plastic containers and polystyrene.
And as the use of plastic containers has increased, some cities have been forced to reduce, or even cancel it altogether, municipal recycling programs.
Last week, Calgary has completely suspended its collection of the blue bins because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the recycling plant of the city.
Edmonton has reported that about one-quarter of what it collects in the recycling bins goes to the landfill because it does not have the staff to handle all the waste.
In eastern Ontario, Quinte Waste Solutions, which provides recycling in the nine municipalities, has suspended the collection of most of the electronic waste and dangerous. In Nova Scotia, many recycling depots have been closed.
The Alberta Energy Regulator has suspended almost all the environmental monitoring requirements for the energy industry, including the monitoring of pollution of soil, water and air.
Originally applicable only to certain operations of the oil sands industry, the alberta has extended on Wednesday the exemption for the whole of the energy sector, claiming that the surveillance activities were not safe in the time of a pandemic.
In early April, Ontario has passed a regulation under its environmental bill of rights, which suspends the requirement of a 30-day consultation with the public on the implementation of any policy involving the water, air, soil, or wildlife.
The government has cited as a reason the need to be able to react quickly to the spread of the COVID-19.
The director-general of the organization Environmental Defence, Tim Gray, said that the governments which were already less likely to care about the environment are those who drop out more quickly the policy of protection.
The COVID-19 also causes delays in the application of measures of protection promised, this could become a long-term problem.
The federal minister of the Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, said last week that the government remained committed to its plans for fighting climate change, and prohibition of single-use plastics, but some of the policies were a little delayed because of the virus.
“What worries me is that it lasts so long that these measures will be pushed to the point where they will not be able to be made before the next election,” said Tim Gray.
He argues that the suspensions and bans of plastic bags are caused by the panic, and that these decisions may evolve as we understand more of the scientific data on the virus.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States have changed their wording about how the virus is transmitted to indicate that it is not easily spread by touching contaminated surfaces.
The deputy chief of the public health agency of Canada Dr. Howard Njoo, said on Friday that the frequent washing and thorough hands and not touch your face without washing your hands would prevent the contamination by the virus.
Demand soars for plastic
The plastics industry has seen an increase in the demand for its products since the beginning of the crisis, says Bob Masterson, president of the canadian Association of the chemical industry.
“Because of the COVID, people have a much better appreciation of the advantages of plastic as the material of health for the food industry,” he said.
Stores across the country rushed to protect their boxes with screens in plastic and equip their employees with gloves and visors plastic for the face.
The application of disinfectant for the hands — mainly plastic bottles — has also soared.
John Thayer, senior vice-president of the manufacturer of petrochemical, Nova Chemicals, said that while some orders were cancelled because of the COVID-19, the application has, however, increased for the plastics used in the manufacture of food packaging, packaging for the shipments of packages, for e-commerce and the use of protective equipment. Everything, from the masks to the face to gowns surgical through respirators, test tubes and test kits of the COVID-19, is manufactured with plastic.
“The polyethylene and other polymers can help to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19, and to treat those who are affected by the virus “, says John Thayer.
Sarah King, manager of the campaign, Oceans and Plastic to Greenpeace Canada, challenges the notion that the plastics would be safer to protect consumers.
It argues that the plastics deserve their place in the medical world, but that studies have shown that the virus lives in reality longer on plastic than on any other material.