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Grocers welcome plastic bag monitoring

Whistler municipal staff working on how to monitor plastic bag use



Whistler grocers are welcoming a move by the Resort Municipality to monitor plastic bag use within the community.

"It's good to have a watchdog out there," said Bruce Stewart, store manager of Nesters Market and spokesman for an informal alliance of grocery stores and pharmacies that's looking to reduce plastic bag use, adding that he's encouraged by the move to take stock of their use over six months.

"We feel quite confident in what we have done in the past, and what we continue to do to reduce bags."

At a council meeting on June 21, Whistler council voted for a six-month review of plastic bag use within the resort municipality, directing staff to establish a baseline of current plastic bag consumption and measure the effectiveness of a voluntary ban and continued education and outreach.

The precise details of the review are still being drawn up, said a municipal spokesperson, but potential data to be collected in the review includes the amount of money businesses spend on providing customers with plastic bags; the number of plastic bags used; the number of people using their own reusable bag; and the number of bags that end up being wasted.

The municipality will depend heavily on the data provided to them by grocery stores and pharmacies.

Stewart also spoke on behalf of the alliance at the June 21 council meeting and described members' efforts to reduce plastic bag use.

"The stores will conduct programs within their individual stores to encourage customers to use a recyclable alternative," he told council. "We plan to develop a simple messaging campaign that can be used by alliance members and perhaps coordinate with other initiatives in the community.

"Most stores have had a reusable shopping bag program in place for the past 15 years. Several options are under consideration for rewarding customers for bringing their own bag, including the possibility of making a donation to a charity."

Stewart stressed at the meeting that the stores have the sensitivity of resort guests "top of mind." He said they support education around the harms of plastic bags rather than legislating a ban, which is impossible under provincial legislating governing municipalities, and that they will work also with the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment on reducing plastic bag use.

"Locals, I can see them getting behind this, I don't see that as being a large challenge for our group," Stewart said. "I see the larger challenge being our weekenders, tourists, and definitely there is an increase in bag usage on weekends."

Kent Dawson, the general manager of Creekside Market, said his grocery store is monitoring its plastic bag usage compared to years before and trying to reduce what's offered out to customers.

"Just with some friendly talk as the cashier is working with the customer," he said, explaining one of the store's methods for reducing plastic bag use.

"We ask each customer if they require a bag. Of course on big orders, we are still with a plastic bag, but yeah, we're reduced the large (orders) just by keeping an eye on it and keeping cashiers aware of that and recognizing customers' needs."