The provincial government wants to look at new ways to reduce the number of single-use shopping bags being used in Manitoba.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said improving recycling options and the idea of banning plastic bags will be reviewed by a newly-appointed provincial recycling task force.

“When it comes to the single-use shopping bags absolutely we can do a better job,” said Squires.

Some Manitoba communities - Leaf Rapids, Snow Lake, Thompson and The Pas - have already implemented bans on single-use shopping bags.

Montreal banned plastic bags on January 1.

“I think it’s definitely a viable option that a lot of municipalities have chosen and it is one that I’m interested in having that dialogue with all Manitobans and that will be part of the discussion that the recycling task force will spearhead as well,” said Squires.

Squires wouldn’t say if a provincial ban is being considered or if it’s only being looked at for the city of Winnipeg.

The minister told reporters Wednesday she has been in contact with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and city councillor Brian Mayes to talk about plastic bags.

“We are at the very beginning stages of our consultation on this and I’m really eager to have the conversation,” said Squires. “I’m excited to know this conversation is being met with enthusiasm throughout the province of Manitoba including at the city of Winnipeg.”

“We have talked at great length about a variety of issues but it is a shared priority of ours to enhance either recycling or reducing the number of those single-use bags from Brady Landfill. Either getting them into a recycling facility or reducing them entirely.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Bowman said if the government is considering a province-wide initiative regarding plastic bags, the Mayor would be open to having a dialogue with the province and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

The latest figures from Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba shows 160 million plastic shopping bags are distributed in Manitoba each year.

MMSM executive director Karen Melnychuk said that number would be around 273 million without a plastic bag reduction program which encourages to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags.

Melnychuk said about 63 per cent of Manitobans already reuse plastic bags in their homes and doesn’t think a ban is the answer.

“Our position has always been through the “3R approach,” reduce, reuse, recycle, you can effectively reduce the number of plastic bags,” said Melnychuk. “There’s many, many uses for plastic bags.”

She said people are already reusing bags for their trash, for instance, instead of buying new plastic bags.

Squires said programs to reduce plastic bag usage have helped but thinks more can be done.

“That’s very encouraging, that’s very positive but ultimately 160 million bags a year with a high majority of them ending up in landfills and so I’m wanting to have a conversation with all Manitobans about some options that we can look at to remove that product from the landfill.”