Local advocacy groups dismayed by city not proceeding with plastic bag ban

Local advocacy and environmental groups Council of Canadians Campbell River chapter; Citizens for Quality Health Care, and Sierra Club Quadra Island chapter reacted with anger and disappointment to the recent decision by the City of Campbell River not to move forward with the banning of single-use plastic bags.

“City won’t pursue bylaw regulating plastic bags” read the headlines in the Sept. 25 edition of the Campbell River Mirror. That article is to date the only communication these groups have had on the decision made by Campbell River City Council.

A year ago, our groups urged the city to consider a single-use plastic bag ban and we offered to work with the city to help bring it about. We hosted a well attended public forum ‘Getting Beyond Single Use Plastic’ in April; we compiled a list of B.C. communities who had initiated or were considering such a plastic bag ban, and forwarded it to the city. We also developed a questionnaire for local businesses so that City Council could learn more about what such a ban would mean to them.

We now learn that City Council did not prioritize the issue in any way and city staff were hamstrung – unable to do anything but add a few comments to the list of communities banning plastic bags. We were asked to poll businesses as staff did not have the go ahead to do so. We were about to spend days taking the questionnaire to businesses when we were blindsided by this recent announcement that the city would not proceed with a plastic bag ban.

Months ago, we expressed an interest in addressing the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) on this matter and, to date, we have not been given the process or opportunity to do so. After being shuffled between various City environmental staff and getting wrong or no information on how we could help move things along faster, we discovered a month ago that there was a Clean BC Plastics Action plan consultation paper and so we submitted our ideas to the Province. Again, with no communications to us from the city, we found out that a city staff report on the plastic bag ban had gone to City Council; was quickly forwarded to the EAC, and just as quickly went back to City Council with a recommendation that the city not proceed with banning single-use plastic bags. The reason given was that the city would be “avoiding symbolic gestures of little meaningful impact” as banning plastic bags and other plastics was a Provincial/Federal government responsibility. The city then approved these recommendations and submitted them to the Province as feedback from Campbell River to the Clean BC Plastics Action plan.

To this date, we still have not received any communication from City Council or City Hall staff on their decision and we are dismayed at the apparent dismissal of our attempts to partner with the city. We request that you get back to us about how your process works so that we may prepare for the next time we have an issue to discuss.

While banning single-use plastic bags, straws, cups, etc. might seem like an insignificant step to some, it is actually an important start – something that is needed and has been embraced by other jurisdictions. Whether there will be a ban at the federal level is unknown and what the B.C. government will decide to do is also unknown – so cities need to be leaders in this matter. With a growing number of provinces and B.C. communities passing bylaws banning single-use plastics; with some cities declaring that we are in a climate emergency, and with young people locally and elsewhere demanding that our city do more to contribute to stemming climate change, our city gets a failing grade on environment. Our city gets a non-green ‘F’ for its unwillingness to take a stance against pollution caused by single-use plastic; for three times voting against Campbell River becoming a Blue Community; for their lack of action on the city’s use of glyphosate, and for lack of a tree bylaw. Our city continues to endorse a local LNG export plant; has declared support for companies running polluting open net fish farms, and dismissed concerns about the proposed composting plant by people living near the facility.

It’s high time for a change from this kind of dinosaur thinking. Environmental action offers opportunities to make Campbell River a cleaner, more desirable modern city. Dinosaurs get buried in the past. Campbell River should move with the times or advertise itself as ‘Fossil Capital Of The World’!

Regards,

Richard Hagensen

On behalf of:

Council of Canadians Campbell River chapter

Citizens for Quality Health Care

Sierra Club Quadra Island chapter