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Resort Municipality of Whistler gathering information on plastic bag policy

Local businesses to be the most influential driver on how the municipality approaches plastic bags, says environmental coordinator



Any push towards a reduction and restructuring of plastic bags given out by businesses in Whistler is going to have to be community led.

At a recent plastic bag open house held by the Resort Municipality of Whistler on March 26, around 25 individuals and business owners gathered to give their input on the matter. As it progresses through council, Nicolette Richer, environmental coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said the most influential driver on how the municipality approaches plastic bags will be local businesses.

"We felt it has to be spearheaded by the grocery stores first if they're responsible for the most amount of bags but they're willing to eliminate plastic bags entirely then that would look more favourable going forward to council then if I took it forward to council, for example," continued Nicolette Richer. "It's a business driven initiative."

In an ideal world, plastic bags would be an unnecessary addition to the consumer culture that greases our economic wheels. While use of reusable cloth bags is on the rise, most stores can't get away from providing some form of plastic bag to customers so the RMOW is searching for a cohesive way to do so responsibly.

Richer flagged Whistler's three grocery stores as crucial to any changes in policy, citing a statistic that links 70 per cent of plastic bag waste to grocery stores. Without their support, the bag problem would be difficult to navigate.

Bruce Stewart of Nesters Market Whistler said he'd like to hear more customer and community feedback before the store makes any changes.

"We do have some great interest in it but I don't know what our involvement is going to be at this point," he said. "We, like most people, are looking for some kind of reduction of plastic bags and I think it's a very complicated issue and there are two sides to the coin and we're concerned about getting it right but we will certainly be involved with it, we're just not sure how it's going to look yet."

Proposed at the open house is a non-mandatory plastic bag program where participants voluntarily take part in a bulk-buying scenario in which recyclable bags are purchased en masse and monogrammed on one side with the Whistler logo and the other with that of the individual business.

"There would be some businesses, obviously, who would want to still carry their own reusable bags but for a lot of people at the meeting they definitely loved the idea of having a Whistler-branded bag and one that residents could acquire throughout many different stores," said Richer.

One person familiar with the issue of plastic bag reduction is Kent Dawson of Whistler's Creekside Market.

"I managed a grocery store on Quadra Island and we at the time managed to get Quadra Island plastic-bag free with the efforts of a lot of the locals over there," he said. "It does make sense to change over and get rid of the plastic so we're fully supportive of something that will work for Whistler."

The proposal will go back to council at the end of May.