A proposed bylaw to ban single-use plastic bags from Rossland had a smooth ride through a public hearing at the last council meeting.
About 15 residents showed up to comment on the proposed bylaw — and only one voice was raised in dissent.
“We’ve got a lot of support within the community to enact the ban, and we haven’t heard that much from people who are against it,” said Mayor Kathy Moore at the start of the meting. “But we want to make sure everybody has the chance to talk and express their views about it.”
The first person up brought a container of plastic bags to illustrate his point.
“That’s the wrapping off my toilet paper. This is the wrapping off my coffee can,” said Dan Haines, a longtime resident of Rossland. “This is plastic wrap off my bacon, here’s some off my meat, here’s some Saran Wrap.
“You were mentioning Ferraros before,” he continued, showing how plastic bags degrade naturally. “This has been in my garage for a year, and it’s totally falling apart, without the sun, without anything. So it will finally break down and it’s 15 per cent recyclable material.”
Haines said his point was that recycling is working, and everything the council wanted to ban — and punish businesses for using — could be dealt with in other ways.
“Our depot will take any plastic bag,” he said “So what we need to do is educate the people to recycle their plastic bags, not to condemn them for it.”
“I don’t understand why we are going after our retailers. They are our livelihood, they bring people into town,” he said. “And you want to fine them $10,000 if they don’t comply? That’s ridiculous…
“If we go back to the beginnings of recycling, the 3 R’s, that’s Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,” said Cheryl Kirby. “This helps us reduce the huge amount of plastic we put into recycling, and we know now recyling plastic may not be as effective as we thought.”
“When we speak of plastic recycling, in reality only 11 per cent of Canada’s plastic is being recycled, and that is steadily decreasing,” said Lisa Wegner. “That is due in part to the exponential growth of the amount of plastic packaging that’s going out. The recycling industry can’t keep up with it.
“I don’t believe anyone is being condemned, other than the fact we just have to start paying attention to what we are doing; Reduce, that’s the big R. Reuse is second, and Recycle is the last-ditch attempt.”
Passed this summer?
With the public meeting over — it was requested by some councillors who felt the public should have a say before the city moves forward on the issue — there’s nothing to stop the bylaw from being passed. That should be complete later this summer.
Rossland’s bylaw sets out a series of fines and other consequences for businesses — or individuals — handing out plastic bags at checkout.
Providing a check-out bag except as allowed in the bylaw, providing a bag when the customer didn’t want one, not charging for a reusable bag, or refusing to use a customer’s reusable bag, all carry a $100 fine per offence. It’s about half that for individuals violating the bylaw.
There are a few exceptions to the rules. Plastic bags used in grocery stores for nuts, candy or bulk foods, or in hardware stores for nails and bolts, are allowed; so is plastic used to wrap frozen fish or meat, flowers, baked goods or pharmacy drugs. You can also use plastic to transport live fish, wrap laundry from the drycleaner, or protect larger items like bedding or newspapers from getting wet.
Customers who bring in old plastic bags can also re-use them at check-out time as well.
Businesses can be charged up to $10,000 for repeated violations of the bylaw, individuals up to $500.
Rossland wouldn’t be the first jurisdiction to ban single-use plastics like bags. Staff noted Vancouver, Victoria and Tofino and Salmon Arm among B.C. municipalities that have passed or are passing similar laws.