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VOP looks at outlawing plastic bags

Following lead of Winnipeg and Rossland

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By Cindy Filipenko

Councillor Jennie Helmer wants to look into the feasibility of Pemberton becoming a plastic bag free zone.

“In Canada, 85 per cent our pollution is coming from municipalities. We need to lead in changing this,” said Helmer.

Helmer noted that San Francisco has passed a bylaw that will prohibit grocery stores from using plastic bags in the next six months. As well, Winnipeg and Rossland, B.C. are considering banning plastic bags.

New legislation enacted in Leaf Rapids, Manitoba makes the distribution of plastic bags subject to a $1,000 fine. The law came into effect on April 2. Prior to imposing the all-out ban, the tiny northern Manitoba municipality introduced a 3¢ levy on plastic bags. The result, over the course of the year, was the reduction of plastic bag consumption by almost 50 per cent.

Helmer was quick to point out that outlawing plastic bags does not mean the consumer will have to source their own bags.

“An alternative to plastic bags can be using non-petroleum based plastic. We do that on the farm,” said Helmer.

The councillor, who farms Helmer’s Organic Farms with her family, estimates that switching over to the environmentally friendlier corn-based plastics cost her family’s business about “$100 on 1,200 clamshell containers.”

Councillor Mark Blundell, who has introduced low-cost, reusable woven bags as an environmentally friendly alternative at his grocery store, was supportive of Helmer’s motion to have staff investigate the feasibility of such a bylaw.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Blundell said of the motion that passed unanimously.

Ireland introduced a15¢ surtax on plastic bags in 2002, and within five months consumption was down by 90 per cent. However, one of its effects was to increase the sale of thicker gauge, large plastic garbage bags by more than 250 per cent.

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