The City of Campbell River is taking a “wait and see” approach to the prospect of banning the use of single-use plastic bags in the community.
The subject was addressed at this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting in response to a letter from Richard Hagensen of the Campell River chapter of the Council of Canadians. Hagensen had written to council on behalf of a number of advocacy groups in the community back in October, urging council to consider implementing a ban, and was wondering why it seemed council had chosen to ignore the groups’ request.
The initial request was made on behalf of the Council of Canadians, the Campbell River Environmental Committee, Citizens for Quality Health Care and the Quadra Island chapter of Sierra Club BC, and Hagensen was looking for council to “please elaborate on the reasons Campbell River City Council took no action on this matter.”
Mayor Andy Adams says council is in no way ignoring the issue, nor are they taking “no action,” but are, instead, watching carefully how the rollout of these types of bans happen in other communities before deciding how to proceed.
“We are monitoring bylaws being proposed in other Vancouver Island or B.C. communities to see if there is a successful model to consider,” Adams says. “We also need to fully engage with our local business community to gauge support and examine any potential impact that such a bylaw could have on their operations.”
Coun. Claire Moglove says while she wasn’t on council when the initial letter came in, she would very much be in favour of looking at the potential of a ban on the bags.
“I know there are other communities that are going in this direction and I would certainly want to go in that direction,” Moglove says. “I think it’s something that’s actually quite important.”
Coun. Charlie Cornfield, however, says he doesn’t support of the idea of a ban, but is willing to look into community consultation on the matter.
“I’m going to take the contrary position,” he says. “I don’t support legislating them and I don’t call them single-use plastic bags. I get plastic bags all the time and I re-use them for all kinds of things. I think it’s one of those things that is a feel-good movement to ban plastic bags, but when you look at the amount of plastic bags and the difference they make to the landfill, it’s a little, tiny, tiny portion of what the issue is with waste.”
He also thinks that by retailers themselves starting to charge for the disposable bags, “business itself has already come up with a way that encourages people to bring their own bags without us having to pass bylaws prohibiting a product that can be reused and recycled and isn’t a big part of the problem.”
Moglove says that while she agrees the bags are “a small thing” in terms of the issues surrounding the disposal of solid waste and the room available in landfills, “you can’t tackle the big things unless you get people in a frame of mind that the little things can be dealt with,” suggesting a ban on bags would be a move in the right direction to changing the attitudes of the public, “and getting people in the mindset that all these bags we are always using are unnecessary.”
She’s not suggesting they implement a bylaw immediately, she says, but she does want them to keep it on the radar as a possibility.
Which is exactly what they are doing by continuing to monitor the bans in other communities so that should council choose to consider one in the future, Adams says, adding that it isn’t a lot of work to keep in touch with other communities that have implemented bans or are working through the process, “and we won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” should they decide to consider a ban in the future.
“It also allows us to see how it goes (in other communities) and examine the other aspect – which I think is really important – and that’s to work through the Chamber of Commerce to examine with the local businesses what the impact may be for our small local businesses.”