Plastic Bag Ban in Nova Scotia

Plastic Bags

Plastic Bag Ban in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia

The Province of Nova Scotia passed legislation in the fall that prohibits businesses from providing a single use plastic checkout bag to a customer, including plastic bags that are biodegradable or compostable. Starting October 30, 2020 providing plastic bags at retail checkouts will be banned in Nova Scotia.

The new rules do not make fees mandatory on paper or reusable bags but retailers may choose to charge for these when they are provided at checkouts. Please refer to the FAQ below for more detailed information.

We understand that our stakeholders may have questions. You can find answers at This information will help you in understanding which checkout bags are restricted from use and circumstances that allow for exemptions (live fish, bulk items, food banks, charities).

The province of Nova Scotia is developing more tools for businesses to use to communicate the plastic bag ban to their customers which will be included on their website once available.

If you need more information or have questions that are not addressed on the province’s website, please contact Ashley David at’


Frequently Asked Questions on the Plastic Bag Ban:


What is the purpose of the Plastic Bags Reduction Act?
The intent of the Plastic Bags Reduction Act is to reduce waste by cutting back on the amount of a material used by consumers.  Plastic shopping bags are an environmental problem when they are not collected for recycling.  It’s estimated that the average Nova Scotian uses 450 shopping bags per year and a great number of them end up in a landfill.

In addition up to three per cent of Nova Scotia’s litter is plastic shopping bags which pose a risk to wildlife and take many, many years to decompose.  

After October 30, 2020, will businesses still provide plastic bags at checkouts?
Starting October 30, 2020, businesses will not be permitted to distribute plastic bags at checkouts.

Are there exemptions under the act for plastic bags to be used in specific circumstances?
Plastic bags are permitted under the act if specifically used for one of the following purposes:

  • package loose bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains or candy
  • package loose small hardware items such as nails or nuts and bolts
  • contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not
  • wrap flowers or potted plants
  • protect prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre-packaged
  • contain prescription drugs received from a pharmacy
  • transport live fish
  • transport a large item that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag
  • protect clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning
  • package medical supplies and items used in the provision of health services
  • protect tires that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag

Why are you banning plastic bags?
Nova Scotians want to do more to protect our environment.

The average person uses about 450 plastic bags every year and most of those will end up in a landfill. By banning single-use plastic shopping bags, we are preventing millions of single-use plastic shopping bags from ending up in landfills or in our environment.

Does the Plastic Bags Reduction Act only apply to grocery stores?
No. The Act applies to all Nova Scotian businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, clothing stores – and the list goes on.

What type of checkout bags will be available?
After October 30, 2020, businesses will only be allowed to offer customers paper or reusable bags at their checkouts. Compostable or biodegradable plastic bags are not permitted.  We encourage people to bring their own!

Why aren’t biodegradable or compostable bags allowed?
Biodegradable and compostable bags contaminate existing recycling streams and don’t adequately decompose in compost facilities in Nova Scotia.

Do businesses have to provide a bag to customers?
No. Businesses do not have to offer any alternatives. Businesses can choose to offer paper and reusable bags for a fee or no fee- it’s up to them.

Are businesses required to charge a fee for paper bags or reusable bags? 
No. Some businesses may choose to charge a fee, and they’re allowed to do that if they want to. We encourage Nova Scotians to bring their own reusable bags.

What is done with the fee if a business charges for paper or reusable bags?
Some businesses may choose to charge a fee, and if they do, they can decide what they want to do with the money.

Can I bring my own bags?
Yes. You are encouraged can bring your own reusable bags.

Is the province planning to ban other single-use items, such as foam containers and drinking straws?
For now, we’re focused on plastic bags. However, the Act gives us the option to regulate other single use items in the future.

Can I still recycle plastic bags?
Yes. Please put them in your blue bag. Other film plastic, such as wrap around toilet tissue and other products, cereal bags, cracker bags, carrot bags, etc., can also be put in your curbside recycling programs. Contact your municipality for more information on sorting information.

I use a plastic shopping bag to line my garbage bins. What will I do now?
You can still buy small and large garbage bags in stores. Make sure you know what type of bag your municipality requires, if it’s a clear bag, make sure that’s what you buy.

Will businesses be permitted to sell garbage bags and dog poop bags?
Yes. Businesses can still sell garbage bags, pet waste bags, sandwich and freezer bags, etc.

I use plastic bags for cat litter or to pick up my dog’s poop. What will I use instead?
There are lots of options for sale. Some municipalities, Colchester for example, allow pet owners to put pet waste in the compost bin. Check with your municipality.

Are there requirements for paper bags?
No. There are no requirements. However, it is recommended that businesses distribute paper bags that contain at least 40% of post consumer recycled paper content.

How will the Plastic Bags Reduction Act be enforced?
It’s our goal to work with businesses so they understand the need to comply. We are developing fines for non-compliance and will share those details when available.

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