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Yukon Party MLA Wade Istchenko and Highway and Public Works Minister Nils Clarke

Plastic bags ban sparked spirited debate

The three political parties in the Yukon legislature argued last Wednesday about the new government ban on single-use plastics.

By Tim Giilck on October 18, 2021

The three political parties in the Yukon legislature argued last Wednesday about the new government ban on single-use plastics.

The subject came up during a ministerial statement by Highway and Public Works Minister Nils Clarke.

“Waste is an issue here in the territory and around the world. Disposing of waste is expensive, requires significant effort, and, when not done properly, negatively impacts our environment,” Clarke said.

“We know that single-use shopping bags are now just one aspect of the waste problem that we face today, but reducing their use and disposal is an important step that we can take to address waste in our territory,” Clarke added.

“As of January 1, 2022, single-use shopping bags will be banned in the Yukon. Reusable bags, as well as other reusable products, are in most of our homes already. We all just need to use them more.

“This is about making new habits. This is why we are giving Yukoners three months to get into the habit of bringing their own bags with them every day.

“We are also giving retailers enough time to adapt to these new changes and to use up their supply of single-use bags. We have a suite of signs, posters, and stickers that retailers can get from the staff of the Department of Environment to help people remember to BYOB — bring your own bags,” the minister said.

Clarke continued his statement by stating “the simple fact is that plastic waste is a problem, whether it’s the bags strewn in trees around our waste management facilities or the microplastics in our waterways.

“Paper bags are not so great, either. While they do not create the same stress on the waste management systems, as a biodegradable option, paper bags are resource-intensive to make.

“Their production contributes to the release of chemical by-products, pollution, and emissions, and their transportation to the Yukon from producers in the south only adds to their overall emissions.

“A ban on paper shopping bags will come into effect a year later, on January 1, 2023.

“Either way, the message is the same: We can all do better. We can all think about decreasing our reliance on single-use products that quickly end up in the trash.

“The ban on single-use bags is just one of the steps that we are taking toward a broader ban of single-use plastics in the Yukon.”

It also aligns with the federal government’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, and aligns with what the government heard from Yukoners, Clarke said.

“Since 2019, we have been talking to Yukoners, First Nations, businesses, and organizations about this issue. Our initial engagement asked about charging a fee for single-use bags.

“What we heard was that, generally, people preferred a ban to a surcharge, and last year our government made a commitment to ban single-use bags.”

Wade Istchenko of the Yukon Party said, “On this topic today, this is another example of the Yukon government dropping the ball on consultation. Much like the (waste) transfer station issue, there has been a lack of consultation with the single-use bag ban.

“In this case, instead of residents who are up in arms over a lack of answers from the government, it’s business owners who are left literally holding the bag, wondering what’s going on,” Istchenko said.

“The order-in-council making the single-use bag ban was puzzling to anyone who read it. The OIC signed on Sept. 29 changing the Environment Act gave two potential dates for the ban to take effect. One was October 1, 2021; the second date listed, according to the OIC, had the new rules taking effect on the day the OIC is filed with the registrar of regulations.

“A press release issued on mid-Friday afternoon on the potential first day of the new rules listed the effective date for the ban on the plastic bags as January 1, 2022,” the Kluane MLA added.

“Paper bags would be outlawed a year later. This is another example of the government forgetting to communicate until after they have brought a policy forward.”

The Yukon Party did a quick check with a few of the shops that use single-use bags, Istchenko said.

“They were completely unaware of when and how the ban was taking effect. They didn’t know what their obligations would be or what they would be expected to do.”

Istchenko also asked what businesses are supposed to do with any surplus stock after the New Year.

“So, after Jan. 1, if a business has customized single-use plastic bags left over, what do they do with them?” he asked.

“They can’t send them back to the supplier and they break the law if they use them, so businesses will be left to throw out single-use bags without them having a single use.”

Emily Tredger of the NDP also weighed in on the issue.

“We have known for a long time that reducing our use of plastics is a priority for Yukoners,” she said.

“In the past years, we have heard over and over again that Yukoners were leading the way, and they were waiting for government to catch up.

“Mayo, Dawson, and Carmacks already had single-use plastic bans in place, but when the Yukon NDP brought forward a motion to do the same, the government told us that a ban wasn’t possible,” Tredger recalled.

“Later, we were told that it was possible, but it would take a while. In November 2019, my colleague, the member for Takhini-Kopper King (Kate White), tabled another motion, this time urging the government to stick to its original timeline of a ban by the spring of 2020. They said that they thought they could do it by the fall of 2020. Both timelines sailed past,” Tredger pointed out.

“When we were negotiating (the April minority government support agreement) with the Liberals, we made it one of our priorities along with dental care, aggressive climate change targets, and a minimum wage increase.

“We secured a commitment to ban single-use plastic bags in the Yukon. When the political will is there, it’s amazing what can happen,” said the Whitehorse Centre MLA.

“Now, our current supply of plastic bags isn’t going to disappear overnight, so we also need to make sure that the plastics we still rely on can be recycled. That means recycled by everyone, not just Yukoners living in Whitehorse.

“Unfortunately, that is not the direction that the Liberal government seems to be going in,” Tredger added.

“Meanwhile, in communities across the Yukon, transfer stations are being closed, so Yukoners living in these places don’t even have a safe place to take their garbage, never mind their recycling.”

She asked what kind of standard of living is being provided to citizens “when they don’t even have a place for their garbage?

“How can we possibly say that we’re acting to protect our environment when we aren’t even supporting our citizens with basic waste management?

“So, yes, I am proud that the Yukon NDP has secured a ban on single-use plastic bags, but I hope that every step of the way toward meaningful climate action and environmental protection will not be such a fight,” Tredger added.

Yukoners have made it clear they want action to support rural and urban Yukoners with waste management, environmental protection and climate, she said.

“Yukoners are clear: we have shown that when there is political will, it can happen. It is time for our government to listen.”

Clarke fired back, by saying “Alleging that we introduced the ban secretly without telling businesses is not responsible, and nothing could be further from the truth. This is not the leadership that Yukoners expect of our territory.

“We have engaged with Yukoners and businesses extensively about this issue,” Clarke added.

In 2019, he recalled, the government considered introducing a fee on single-use shopping bags and solicited feedback.

“What we heard from industry, retailers, and Yukoners was that they would prefer a simple ban on bags,” Clarke said.

“In response to that, last year, our government made a commitment to ban single-use bags. We went back out to speak to Yukoners and stakeholders again at the start of this year.

“We made it clear that the bag ban was happening and what we really needed were specifics on the rollout. We asked how we should do it — timing and exemptions — because it was no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘how’ and ‘how soon.’

“We wanted to make sure that we had a good understanding of how we would implement this in a way that worked for our industry partners. We all have a role to play in waste management in our territory, and we need to work together.”

Comments (29)

Up 2 Down 2

Charlie's Aunt on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:28 pm

News flash: Next big rush at stores, leading to empty shelves & shortages, will be on plastic kitchen catchers and black garbage bags.

Up 11 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Oct 23, 2021 at 10:02 am

How do Progressives measure progress? Seems they focus on reducing or removing things from our lives, like the convenience of plastic bags and then crow about how they have achieved something positive.
Don't get me wrong I dislike seeing plastic bags blowing down the ditches or hanging in trees, but that is just one article of waste. The real problem is our communities acceptance of litterbugs.
Packaging from fast food outlets in paper or styrofoam, plastic cup lids, aluminum cans and all the other jetsam found roaming our streets and highways. I see signs saying there are fines for those who litter, but I can't think of a single case that has been reported in local media. Plastic bags are just the evidence that some people are lazy in putting waste where it belongs. It's not the bag's fault - its just being a bag that somebody irresponsibly discarded.

Up 0 Down 8

TheHammer on Oct 22, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Ban the Bag. We can turn our war against toxic waste into a whacky winning fancy bag contest, we all know Wade's toxic verbiage, based on the law of interdependent origination, is directly related to the plastic pollution filling our oceans and choking the fish. Mind and matter are inextricably linked, and the present state of earth and climate is without a shadow of doubt a reflection of our collective state of mind.

Up 12 Down 3

Jeff Bikaboom on Oct 22, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Between the bags I don't use and my cardboard straws, I am a goddamn hero.
I am not apposed to banning bags, but let's not act like this is going to accomplish anything. Our economy survives on planned obsolescence.

Let's ban 80 percent of Walmart, and 99 percent of Dollar Store products. Heaven forbid we let anymore of those open up in town. (The current dollar store is not so bad, I apologize for using it in my rant).

Up 18 Down 6

North_of_60 on Oct 21, 2021 at 2:25 pm

The ineffectual bag-ban is a fitting reminder that we are ruled by left-wing politicos far more concerned with virtue signaling their self-righteousness than actually addressing the real problems of waste and pollution in the Yukon.

Up 11 Down 4

Yeah but, what about....? on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Lordy, we're all turning into 4-year olds.

Up 22 Down 1

Yukong on Oct 21, 2021 at 11:15 am

The next time you go shopping, take note of the different products that are encased with the most plastic. I noticed in the grocery store, some bakery products and a lot of the "ready made" products (salads, pizza etc) have an obscene amount of plastic packaging. Is that not "single use" as well? We have a choice, I guess to just not buy that stuff. But the consumer is being guilted about single use plastic bags when the main issue of plastic use is so far upstream, that the consumer has no choice in the matter. Instead of dithering in the legislative assembly and scolding the citizen consumers, why is the government not using their regulatory powers to address the problem right at the source? Because greenwashed virtue signalling is much easier. What if our carbon tax dollars went towards something truly useful, say, the development of Canadian made hemp plastic? Foster the partership between universities, farmers and manufacturers? But no, we're using our carbon tax money to... fix the roads?

Up 14 Down 1

jeff bikaboom on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:58 am

Can I keep using them if I promise to use them as garbage bags, thus making them dual use? I guess I will fill my reusable bags with boxes of garbage bags now. I will also fill them with bags of fruits, and bags of vegetables, and bags of cereal, and bags of nuts, and bags of bread, and bags of chips, and bags of bags of ziplock bags that I will use to hold my bags.

Canadian tire has no bags but I am not allowed a backpack there.
Perhaps the gov should encourage people to use less bags, instead of demanding. Give out reusable bags like they do condoms.
How much phosphates will be released into the environment washing these reusable bags?

How much fuel will be used to ship these reusable bags from china?
How much salmonella will be carried on each bag from the chicken juice that leaked onto them?
I think the bag usage should go down about 10 percent at the beginning of December. This is the real conspiracy, passports for the reduction of bags. I am on to you.

Up 15 Down 1

Grrrr on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:45 am

I've been hoarding these bags ever since I found out. No more free garbage bags and now I have to buy them. Every solution creates a new problem.

Up 20 Down 11

covidbc on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Cotton grocery bags have the carbon foot print of 131 plastic bags.
Keep up the good work greenies.
You're wrecking the planet.

Up 13 Down 6

JC on Oct 20, 2021 at 7:40 am

More individual responsibility being pushed, when the real heavy polluters are military and industry.
What effect will this have? None. It's like how if every single person in North America didn't shower for a year in an effort to conserve water, it would save as much as the Date industry in California uses in 1/2 a day.

Yeah. I'm actually for this more than I am opposed, but this greenwashing is nonsense. Make burdens for the individual that add up to F all. Captain Planet was always BS. Utter trash (pun intended)

Up 14 Down 7

Shopgirl on Oct 20, 2021 at 7:16 am

Businesses were consulted over a year ago regarding this ban. We were invited to complete a survey and offer perspectives. Some of what I said seems to have been heard.

Up 31 Down 2

Single use?? on Oct 19, 2021 at 11:44 pm

I realize there is no shortage of ignorant thoughtless people that toss their trash wherever they happen to be when said trash is no longer of use to them. But I take exception to the labeling of plastic grocery bags as single use. I use them multiple times for a variety of different purposes until ultimately they end up being used as garbage bags. Now instead of a steady supply of these useful bags I will have to buy real single use bags, AKA garbage bags. I wonder if the people at GLAD have any input into these policies??

Up 23 Down 8

Anie on Oct 19, 2021 at 2:35 pm

Bonanzajoe, you are certainly welcome to your opinion, but don't use me to support your argument. I am, as you say "elderly". I have used my own bags for over two decades. After they are emptied, I leave them at the door and they get returned to the car when next I go out. At first, if I forgot them in the car, I would go out to the store parking lot and get them - and it only took a couple of trips before I stopped forgetting. During Covid, grocery stores wouldn't allow own bags so I just left the groceries in the cart and packed my bags in parking lot. If all of this is too onerous for you, just say so, but don't put it on me.

Up 21 Down 13

Dave on Oct 19, 2021 at 12:46 pm

What about Tim Horton kids, fast food lids?
We need reusable bags just to fill up with plastic containers, does this mean we open all our food and put it reusable containers to?

Up 50 Down 11

Jamie on Oct 18, 2021 at 10:20 pm

With all that is going on in the current world and with all the problems out there, this is what we are dealing with now? Government officials, politicians, city planners and all other decision makers are complete idiots. I stand by that comment.

Up 25 Down 26

Woodcutter on Oct 18, 2021 at 10:11 pm

I so love old black and white westerns and have come to appreciate that they are reflective of the society they represented. I notice, in these movies, that when the folks went to the general store, that they brought their own bags and didn't complain about the marxist liberal trying to enslave the world cause the store didn't provide them with a bag.

The remnants that Wade is portraying is just a prop for political theater and is insignificant, not like his shameful antics a few months prior. Yes Wade ya got a taint about ya now, just like the single use plastic bag I use so that my car sick prone daughter needs every time we go on a road trip. We can dispose of this at any rest stop with a garbage bin, however, we must endure you.

Up 24 Down 15

bonanzajoe on Oct 18, 2021 at 8:52 pm

Wilf: now that paper shopping bags are banned, the customer will have to buy the stores plastic bags for their garbage. So, where is the win here? I cannot believe how stupid smart people become when they get elected to public office.

Up 23 Down 22

John on Oct 18, 2021 at 8:15 pm

It's great to see Wade and Stacy back in the shadow cabinet after the text thing. Good job bringing them back so quickly Currie. Two thumbs up.

Up 19 Down 9

Matthew on Oct 18, 2021 at 7:11 pm

LOL! Or... you can just have recycled bags.. bags at Super store are 100% recycled... isn't that actually helping clean up plastics?

Up 32 Down 13

Someone should let Toronto know! on Oct 18, 2021 at 7:06 pm

This is just virtue signalling. The truth is that the Yukon isn't causing a climate crisis...when it comes to climate change we are victims of other people's misdeeds...no matter how many diesel one-tonnes are on the road up here. Climate change is underway, and carrying a cloth bag to get groceries might make you feel empowered, but really - what you should be doing is moving away from flood plains, making sure your house is well insulated, installing a wood stove, getting set up with a greenhouse, buying a rifle and learning how to hunt, process, cook and store wild game. Nobody wants to admit that to themselves though, it's easier to ride a $5k electric scooter to your YG job. Yes, Chad, you are saving the planet one sneer at a time. Bravo! There's a craft beer with your name on it at the local microbrew.

What I want to know is what is the government doing to prepare us for Climate Emergencies - and the real emergency...everyone wanting to move here when things become untenable down south.

But by God - we won't have plastic grocery bags - that fixes everything - the rest should be easy.

Up 30 Down 14

Juniper Jackson on Oct 18, 2021 at 7:06 pm

In 1989 Al Gore started lecturing on climate change. He made a number of predictions, New York would be underwater, the Maldive islands would sink and disappear, 27 in all, that failed to occur. Not 1 in fact actually happened. But Gore is not the only one to make erroneous predictions, state garbage as fact, (but he's probably the only one to make over 300 million dollars on it. And, continues today to milk that cash cow. ) https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/50-years-of-failed-doomsday-eco-pocalyptic-predictions-the-so-called-experts-are-0-50/

In the 60s, I was younger then, 'causes', 'marches', 'protests'...right up my passionate alley. Don't you dare cut my trees down, the hole in the ozone layer is going to kill us.. (turns out the hole was caused by an underwater arctic volcano, and has continued healing https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/north-poles-largest-ever-ozone-hole-finally-closes/).

Am I concerned about my planet? Yes. But, I am more concerned about those people who are throwing their garbage in the ditches, and pushing their old fridges into the canyons off Range Road. The earth will heal itself, if we let it. We need oil and gas, we don't need an electric cars. We need responsible mining.. we don't need irresponsible toxic waste seeping into our water sheds. That same person griping about a plastic grocery bag that most of us reuse, is right there buying batteries for their electronics. Lithium batteries are deadly. Do they even know how hypocritical they are?

Up 20 Down 9

buy-a-bag on Oct 18, 2021 at 4:59 pm

bonanza joe: I see your point, for sure, but we have to start somewhere. I haven't seen very many of those black garbage bags around in the ditches, on fences, in the streets and in the trees and hedges, but I sure have seen a lot of those white plastic grocery bags. Ugly and bothersome! And I agree with you that some seniors will forget to bring in their bags (I am one of them), but eventually they will adjust (as I did). A sufficient notice period has to be given. And I don't think buying a few cloth bags will bankrupt anyone, either. They cost a buck or two.

Up 42 Down 40

bonanzajoe on Oct 18, 2021 at 4:31 pm

buy a bag: I don't agree with you. The stores sell plastic garbage bags. Now the customer has to pay more for the bags in the aisle section. Will the governments ban all plastic from the stores? Sounds hypocritical to me.

Up 35 Down 69

bonanzajoe on Oct 18, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Another Marxist Liberal move. How long will it take for people to remember to bring their own bags to the store. Can you imagine an elderly person drives to the store - at the high cost of gas to day, and realizes they forgot to bring a bag. Do the math on that one. If stores abolish plastic bags, then provide paper ones like they did before they turned to plastic ones. It is the responsibility of the stores to provide containers for the public.

Up 48 Down 12

buy-a-bag on Oct 18, 2021 at 4:04 pm

I agree with a single-use plastic bag ban, but it has to be planned properly. Some outlets no longer supply plastic bags (liquor store, and some independent retailers for example), and people seem to be fine with that. I have had a problem in the past, however, when I brought my own bags into grocery stores and they were not allowed due to COVID restrictions. More recently, that has changed, but I wonder if it will re-surface with the new COVID regulations. I think a few months for stores to deplete their plastic bag supplies would probably not cause them too much of a problem. Re-usable bags are the way to go if they're allowed.

Up 44 Down 32

Mr Facts on Oct 18, 2021 at 3:50 pm

And here we are, that everyone uses "SINGLE USE GARBAGE BAGS" EVERY SINGLE DAY. I'm glad we have this level of intelligence, with the inflated pay cheques, that come with the wizards governing us stupid peasants. How would I lead my life without your incredible insight and fatuity rules? Too bad you guys can't debate that forcing the entire population into a one size fits all medical experiment that has no bias in reality is plain wrong. "Just following orders".

Up 28 Down 38

Politico on Oct 18, 2021 at 3:27 pm

I object to the government taking away my right to pollute this free country in the way I see fit, Freedom!

Up 41 Down 35

Wilf Carter on Oct 18, 2021 at 2:26 pm

According to Yukon Government records they had 69 consultations with Yukoners.
All of them were privately done, none were public. That's called good public policy!!!
A number of studies done in US - shopping bags have up to 30 or more uses and are very multi purpose to use for such things as collections garbage in a home, storing food in freezer, storing many different items.

I like to see the public report where people want shopping bags banned and who was involved???!!!

This is just another mismanagement of public policy in Yukon by Liberals and we have to pay $50 plus a year in carbon tax - it's been wasted on what?? Drives up our cost of living by 32% but the weather stays the same.

Why Yukoners do you accept this behavior and now we are $352 million in debt for nothing to show for it or path way out of it but shopping bags will be gone!! Wow is that great.

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