Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Let's have a public conversation about plastic bags

Once again, civic leaders in the Lower Mainland are sending a strong signal to retailers about their practice of handing out free plastic bags which become a public nuisance. An unimaginable 4 - 5 trillion of the flimsy bags were dispensed in Europe and North America in 2002, making them a visible target for public concern.

Last year North Vancouver District Council and Coquitlam City Council called for a hefty tax on plastic bags to discourage their use. Next week Vancouver City Council will consider a motion calling for a staff report on options on "phasing out" plastic bags within the city.

Both proposals have legs because they have been successfully implemented elsewhere. Ireland imposed a 25 cent PlasTax in 2002 that almost immediately reduced bag use by 90%. San Francisco considered a tax and then opted for an outright ban last March -- the first in North America.

Most importantly, these tough measures have been popular with the public, despite the plastic and retail industry doing their best to shoot them down.

It's all very well for the retailers to tout the benefits of the bags, but they don't pay the cost for the waste. It's local politicians who have to tax their communities to provide disposal services. No wonder they are turning to harsh measures! The industry has a lot to answer for.

Zero Waste Vancouver supports the motion to look at options to deal with the plastic bag problem. We would like to see Vancouver City Council convene a Waste Advisory Committee to look at this and other priority issues identified by the public and civic leaders. The committee could work with staff to explore the options, evaluate them, and come back with recommendations that would work for Vancouver.

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