Whitehorse Daily Star

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Barbara Drury

City council asked to outlaw plastic bags

A Whitehorse-area woman asked city council Monday evening to ban single-use plastic bags, and it’s looking like she has some support on council.

By Chuck Tobin on June 19, 2019

A Whitehorse-area woman asked city council Monday evening to ban single-use plastic bags, and it’s looking like she has some support on council.

Barbara Drury of the Circle D Ranch west of Whitehorse told council that banning single-use bags is a small step forward the city can take to help the environment.

“I am asking if the City of Whitehorse would ban the use of single-use plastic bags, the kind that are given out at the stores for people to take their groceries home,” she said.

She’s made a pledge to herself to stop using the plastic bags and instead rely on re-useable cloth bags, Drury added.

It can be difficult because she forgets her bags sometimes, but it’s possible to adapt once you make the decision, she told council.

Drury said banning the plastic bags is something that could happen, and it would not take a lot of money.

“I just think it is a really important message to get out there,” she said.

Many countries around the world have banned single-use plastics, as plastic is becoming more and more of an environmental nightmare, particularly for oceans across the globe.

Community Services Minister John Streicker said earlier this spring the Yukon government wants to see a reduction in the use of plastic bags but is looking at attaching a fee to them before contemplating an outright ban.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week he is looking at an outright ban of single-use plastics beginning in 2021, including bags, straws and cutlery.

Following Drury’s presentation Monday, Coun. Laura Cabbot asked for support to have the issue of plastic waste brought forward to a meeting of council members and senior administration. She received unanimous support from her fellow council members.

At the recent annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Quebec City, Cabbot noted, the workshop on plastic and waste was the most well-attended – standing-room-only.

“So this is an important issue to many municipalities and communities across the country,” she said.

“I would like to see if there is interest and common ground on council to take the lead in reducing plastic within our city.”

Cabbot acknowledged there is a place for plastics in computers, bike helmets and such.

But she also proceeded to cite many of the disturbing statistics that have surfaced in recent years regarding the impact plastic waste is having on the environment, including that 40 per cent of plastics are discarded after a single use.

Worldwide, 20 per cent of plastics are being recycled, but in Canada, it’s only nine to 10 per cent. The rest goes into landfills or the environment, where they’ll spend the next several hundred years and longer decomposing, she noted.

Cabbot said 18 billion pounds of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year.

By 2050, she said, it’s estimated there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

“I really do hope there is something we can do here at the city working with businesses and other levels of government, but I do not think we have to wait for them as well,” she said.

Coun. Steve Roddick pointed out next month is the Plastic Free July Challenge.

“I did it last year, and it was definitely a challenge, and I would encourage the mayor and councillors to take on this challenge with me,” he said.

Individual measures won’t be enough to tackle the issue around plastic waste, but they are important, Roddick said.

The challenge will have to include producer responsibility, he suggested.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

from Raven Recycling re: Soft Plastics on Jun 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm

There doesn't seem to be any information as to quantities of plastic bags that end up in landfill vs ending up as recycled materials. But doesn't it just make sense to no longer use the single-use plastic bags (and yes, I know many use them 3-4-or however-many times)? I also agree with the comments to start getting suppliers and retailers to reduce the amount of plastic packaging being used. From Raven's website "The rest of what we ship is baled together as “soft plastic.” This includes plastic bags and overwraps (#4 LDPE films), and multi-laminate plastic packaging (made of multiple types of plastic). Multi-laminates include items such as zippered and stand-up pouches, crinkly wrappers and bags, plastic mesh bags, and flexible packaging with a plastic seal. We currently pay between $50 and $100 per tonne for Merlin to accept this material.

While LDPE films can be cleaned and recycled, multi-laminates are not currently recyclable. RecycleBC and Merlin Plastics are currently piloting a program to recycle this material, which you can learn more about here. Because we must bale these materials together, soft plastic bales are downgraded by Merlin and used as engineered fuel, which is burned primarily in the production of cement. This is not Raven’s preferred option, but until other options are available to recyclers across Western Canada, we believe this is better than sending the material to Yukon landfills. We are constantly looking for recycling options that are environmentally and economically sustainable, lower our footprint and help bring us closer to Zero Waste."

Up 0 Down 0

My Opinion on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Oh how I long for the old days when we were truly green. Bottles were shipped back and refilled not crushed. There was no such thing as plastic knives and forks you took the ones from your house for a picnic. Straws were paper. Store shopping bags were paper and were reused until they felt like cloth. After that they were saved for fire starter in the wood stove.

Then the greenies came along and showed us the way. Cutting trees down was bad. Paper was bad. Along came the plastic.
I am so sick of all of this. I take my groceries out in the cart and put them in my vehicle, same way I always have. No Bags.

Up 14 Down 0

Most aren't single use on Jun 25, 2019 at 8:56 am

I'm like a lot of other people and I use my plastic bags over and over again until they have holes. And then, I recycle them if I can.
Businesses can choose to no longer use plastic shopping bags - many have already and the world didn't end.

Pushing personal agendas never gets much buy-in from the majority. You have to sell the idea and make it lucrative instead of using scare tactics.

Up 5 Down 2

Charlie's Aunt on Jun 24, 2019 at 5:04 pm

@ MO. Doesn't surprise me at all that you saw a US Nat Parks van dropping off plastic waste @ Raven. I just read an article that recycling centres in lower 48 cannot cope with their sorted and bundled mounds of plastic waste because they have nowhere to send it & many have stopped accepting it. Large cities that have been diligent about recycling are now at a standstill with plastic. What better place to dump it if you live close to a Canadian facility that still accepts it?

Up 18 Down 2

North_of_60 on Jun 22, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Raven recycles soft plastic, like shopping bags, as engineered fuel for cement kilns in Richmond and Delta or burned to make electricity at the W2E facility in Burnaby.
That's lot better than having them blowing out of the dump or discarded as litter.

Up 13 Down 5

My Opinion on Jun 22, 2019 at 1:17 pm

So yesterday I was dropping off some recyclables at Raven and there was a van sitting next to me. It was a U.S. National Parks service van, Piled to the roof and beyond with soft plastic waste and other things. What are they doing bringing their garbage here? How did Customs allow this to happen? U.S. is treating us like some third world country.

Recycling is not anywhere near self sustainable. It costs us a lot of money to keep it going. Many types of soft plastics are not recyclable and are just rerouted to the dump. So my question is why are we allowing the U.S. to download their problem on us? My bet is that U.S. National Parks has a policy to be ZERO WASTE and this is how they are accomplishing it at our expense.

I have pictures and now I will be getting answers. Stay tuned.
Whse. Star. Feel free to contact me.

Up 19 Down 8

John Hyldahl on Jun 21, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Your idea of banning plastic bags is ludicrous and outrageous. This idea is not going to save the planet. I prefer to listen to Patrick Moore and Bjorn Lomborg than the likes of David Suzuki and Al Gore.

Up 8 Down 15

single use or used a dozen times on Jun 21, 2019 at 4:47 pm

They still end up in the landfill, and stay there for a very long time before breaking down. According to this article, and I've seen similar articles, only about 10% of the so-called single use bags end up being recycled. Yes, Raven receives subsidies, but the plastic bags don't get recycled as they can't be processed through the sorting equipment. So my vote - my opinion only - is a ban, as there are many other options. @Max Mack on that note, I'm curious as to your comment about 'dozens of reasons' why a ban would be bad for the environment and human health?

Up 38 Down 3

Against the Grain on Jun 20, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Personally I think the reference to plastic shopping bags as "single use plastic bags" is dishonest and stupid. I have a cupboard full of them, and can honestly say I have NEVER used one of these bags only a single time. I use them to wrap my wet swimming gear so I don't soak my backpack, use them as lunch bags, (and bring them home after), and the list goes on and on... I also use them as garbage bags a lot of the time, preventing me from having to purchase a box of garbage bags that will only ever serve one purpose. (REAL single use bags..) Once again, a call for banning an item when the real problem lies with ignorant, thoughtless people..

Up 28 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jun 20, 2019 at 2:49 pm

I'm waiting for the Federal government to justify how some single use plastics will enjoy a pass because of existing regulations within government departments. An example: Health Canada has determined the way in which cannabis is to be legally packaged and sold in Canada, and it depends largely on single-use plastic packaging which they seem to believe helps to keep it away from young people. It doesn't, it only creates another level of plastic waste that enters our waste disposal systems which cost more money to deal with.
On its website, Health Canada mandates that cannabis "be packaged in an immediate container that is tamper-evident, child-resistant, prevents contamination and keeps cannabis dry."

It also states that "regulations would require that the immediate container be opaque or translucent. Products could have both an inner and outer package, but every package would need to be labelled in accordance with the proposed requirements." And the result is: For every gram of cannabis sold there can be as much as 70 grams of packaging waste,

Up 30 Down 7

Max Mack on Jun 20, 2019 at 10:19 am

There are dozens of reasons why a plastic ban or "bag tax" of any kind is actually worse off for the environment and human health.
Not to mention that Raven Recycling is funded quite generously to recycle all that "single-use" plastic.

If plastics are banned, will we see a corresponding decrease in Raven's funding? Or, will we see a reduction in environmental fees/taxes?
People who feel strongly about not using plastic should do that - without forcing society at large to comply with their values.

Up 18 Down 11

Gringo, we can do both on Jun 20, 2019 at 4:25 am

The packaging of items in stores is crazy, and yes, stores and suppliers need to take a hard look at their plastics. But at the same time, we can all get along without the plastic bags to haul our groceries and purchases in. I agree with a ban, not an extra fee. But if anyone is absolutely against a ban, just start stocking up on the bags - they'll be good for hundreds of years.

Up 32 Down 4

Jim on Jun 19, 2019 at 10:36 pm

Do our civic politicians have nothing better to do? Is all their “homework” done and they have a free period to chase windmills? We already have the federal level preparing to declare a ban on plastic bags. YTG is doubling down and looking at ways to reduce the use of plastic bags. And now you have city councilors on the soap box doing exactly the same. It’s like the climate change emergency. Already declared by the federal government for across Canada. So why does the city feel the need to declare their own emergency? Not sure why the media has to give these people the exposure they do. The city elected officials should do what they are elected to do, run the city. Leave the political grand standing and photo ops to the real politicians.

Up 28 Down 1

North_of_60 on Jun 19, 2019 at 10:10 pm

Lighter, non-recyclable packaging actually generates less waste. And once you start looking into plastic packaging, this kind of counterintuitive conclusion comes up all the time.

Some packaging is a foolish waste, but are shrink-wrapped cucumbers really so silly if it means they stay fresh for 14 days rather than three? Which is worse 1.5g (0.05oz) of plastic wrap or entire cucumbers going off before being eaten?
Plastic bags stop bananas going brown so quickly, or new potatoes going green; they catch grapes that fall off bunches.

About a decade ago, one UK supermarket experimented with taking all its fruit and vegetables out of their packaging - and its food wastage rate doubled. And it's not just shelf life - what about waste created before food gets to the shop in the first place?

Another supermarket, stung by criticism for putting apples in plastic-wrapped trays, tried selling them loose from big cardboard boxes - but so many were damaged in transit that the approach used more packaging per apple actually sold. According to a UK government report, only 3% of food is wasted before it gets to shops. In developing countries, that figure can be 50% - and that difference is partly due to how the food is packaged.

As more of us live in cities, far from where food is grown, this matters.
Even the dreaded single-use shopping bag might not be the villain it seems.

Natural gas is used to make plastic. The plastic is used to wrap food, keep it fresh and relatively uncontaminated. It's also widely used to wrap products to reduce damage and pilferage. Once the plastic has served it's purpose it can be burned like natural gas to provide heat and electricity in a Waste-to-Energy facility like the one in Burnaby BC, or used as 'engineered fuel' to heat cement kilns at 2000°C. That's a far better use for waste plastic than having it litter the land or end up in the ocean. Recycling plastics can be profitable or deleterious, depending on how it's done. Most hard plastics can be economically recycled, the rest can be burned as fuel to make electricity or in cement kilns.
That's how it's done in Western Canada; other regions could learn from that example.

Up 31 Down 0

Darrell Drugstore's smartest neighbour on Jun 19, 2019 at 9:49 pm

1956 just called and told me that PAPER BAGS WORK FINE

Up 4 Down 20

At home in the Yukon on Jun 19, 2019 at 7:14 pm

Any consideration to ban single-use plastic bags must consider that this is a tourist town. It's fine enough for locals to get away from plastic, but what does a tourist do when (s)he goes to the store to get supplies? I propose that rather than banning the bags, we raise the cost of them to $.25, and require a bag fee at every store.

Up 25 Down 8

Wilf Carter on Jun 19, 2019 at 5:19 pm

You got to love it. Shopping bags are not a single use product and are used for many purposes. Putting food in frig, freezer, caring things, clean up in yard, etc. This subject is like other fads that are created by people who do not understand the subject, especially some politicians. What crazy things politicians think of to get attention like the COW on this climate emergency.

Up 13 Down 18

Michael Storm on Jun 19, 2019 at 5:17 pm

This is good. I want bags that will break down quickly when they blow into the forest.
Maybe council can ban negative people who rail and cry about everything meant to make the city a nicer place.

Up 57 Down 9

gringo on Jun 19, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Surely this person has more on their plate to deal with then again maybe not. Plastics bags are on everybody's hit list but consider your groceries and the bazillion plastics that are used. Look at a three pack of cukes and you will find they are double wrapped. So perhaps she should lobby Loblaws etc., to pressure their suppliers and get that under control before bags that have more than one purpose.

Up 58 Down 21

Al on Jun 19, 2019 at 3:37 pm

...it never stops. Ban this, ban that; this is not safe, that is not safe; we are destroying this we are destroying that; it goes on ad nauseam. Stop cows from farting - ban it. Some of this is silly - it is silly because these same people that advocate all these things we must ban still drive cars, use plastics everyday, buy petroleum based products, purchase produce that is trucked in, buy clothes made of synthetics - good grief you name it and they are just as guilty as the silent majority; but is the silent majority guilty of anything? Yet give these a microphone, or a box to stand on, and they become holier than thou preaching to the world what we must do to meet "their new order".

We have a PM and MP that fly all over the place daily or weekly. Do they curb these habits? No of course not. Could they achieve the same results by video conferencing - of course they could, but would they? Of course they will not. And so it goes down the food chain, No example set, so I say to myself - if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for everyone.

Let's not be hypocrites - we are what we are. The evolution of change is slow and stepped. I expect that 50 years from now we won't be much further ahead than we are now.

What to curb the problem with climate challenges? Then reduce the population growth in the world. That is really the root cause of what we are facing today; but will we observe this fact? No, instead we will nit-pick at everything else and point fingers at ghosts and say "aha - that is the problem - plastic bags or some other object".

It makes one shake their head at how inane, politically correct and silly we have become...

Up 35 Down 34

Politico on Jun 19, 2019 at 3:04 pm

It may be a symbolic measure but every bit counts. Just look at the number of bags blowing around the city and stuck in trees.

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