Nelson city council has discussed and rejected the idea of banning single-use plastic bags.
Council voted last week to instead mount a voluntary campaign in partnership with the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.
Councillors Rik Logtenberg and Cal Renwick visited the chamber board last month and proposed the idea.
“It was received very well by the chamber,” Renwick said, “and they said that it was a great effort to get behind, and they would put the word out to the membership.”
Chamber executive director Tom Thomson agrees that it was well received.
“The feeling around the table,” he told the Star, “was that we would rather try to do some sort of voluntary chamber-led initiative than a draconian law put into place, with the plastic police going around, at a very high cost. Do a public education approach and take voluntary steps.”
He said many businesses buy plastic bags in bulk, and a ban would mean they would be stuck with that inventory.
Thomson says he thinks businesses and consumers in Nelson are becoming more conscious of the single-use plastic issue.
“A lot of people are already trying. In stores they ask if you need a bag or if you want a bag. Source for Sports say they have reduced plastic bags by 75 per cent right across the country.”
He said details of the Chamber’s educational initiative have not yet been decided.
Logtenberg said council had already dropped the idea of a bylaw because it is not necessary.
“Our business community wants to do this and many of them are reducing their consumption,” he said. “It is happening already and it is important to acknowledge the chamber and business community are already leading.”
Single-use plastic bags have recently come under fire worldwide because their manufacture contributes to global warming, they add volume and cost to landfills, they contribute to the formation of microplastics found to be a threat to ocean life and hence to all life, they produce large amounts of litter, and plastic bag recycling is inefficient or non-existent.
Victoria’s plastic bag ban fails in court
In any event, an attempt to ban single-use plastic bags by a B.C. city council has so far been thwarted in court.
Last week the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled the City of Victoria can’t ban plastic bags because the city put forward as its main objective the protection of the environment. The court said the municipality exceeded its mandate by attempting to impose a ban because a municipality has no power over protecting the environment — that’s provincial jurisdiction.
The matter was in court because Victoria’s proposed ban had been challenged by the Canadian Plastic Industry Association.
Logtenberg said the court decision was disappointing “because [municipalities] are responsible for waste … and this is about managing our waste stream.”
October will be Plastics Free Month in Nelson.
During the month, Logtenberg said, Nelson council members will collect all the plastic they have consumed and display it for public viewing. He said details of this initiative, declared by council on July 8, will be reported later this summer.
Nelson will challenge other cities to do the same at a Climate Caucus meeting in Vancouver in August.