Plastic bags taking a bow? 

Campaign to rid Squamish of them picks up speed

Mr. Maguire was wrong, silly man. Despite his forecasting in The Graduate , plastics, though ubiquitous, have proven quite the environmental menace, be it their sluggish pace of degradation or the fallout from their production.

Yes, plastics are much loathed in environmental circles, especially the plastic bag, which, though star of the climax in American Beauty , is a killer of animals, one that weeps petroleum and drapes itself over thickets and bushes, one that comes over after a trip to the grocery store and hangs around for about 1,000 years without contributing to the rent.

And so the foot soldiers of Greener Footprints (GF) have been busy demonizing the plastic bag in Squamish, as they have successfully in Rossland. The campaign recently got a $10,000 boost from council coffers, with the money flowing from the Carbon Neutral Reserve Fund. Though all councillors supported the contribution, it's subject to a final review of the overall campaign.

According to Jen Reilly, one of GF's storm troopers, the residents of Squamish are ready to shed their reliance on the plastic bag. "We did 511 surveys at Nesters and Save On," she said at a recent council meeting. "82.7 per cent of the respondents agreed Squamish should be a plastic bag-free zone."

Thing is, people don't want to be inconvenienced. Reusable bags are not hard to come by, though they are hard to remember. Rare is the home transitioning from plastic to canvas that doesn't have a gross accumulation of the things, a collection that grows with every empty-handed visit to the grocery store.

"How do you get people to have the bags, when they leave their house, in their purse or pockets or whatever?" pondered Councillor Patricia Heintzman. "Perhaps we could look at a ways of providing incentives for transit users. You know, you bring your bag and you get on the bus half price."

Or maybe some kind of borrow-and-bag system could be set up. Forget your canvas? Produce a twoonie, borrow a bag and bring it back when you're done.

Meantime, businesses are catching on. Valhalla Pure and Funky Monkey, for example, don't offer plastic bags anymore. And, said Reilly, others are showing support.

Council's financial contribution goes into a growing fund of about $31,000, money GF says it's using for seminars and for the production of about 12,000 reusable bags to be distributed free to households in Squamish. The bags will feature a tailored image meant to invoke all things Squamish: an eagle and salmon, rivers and mountains.

The campaign, meanwhile, features all kinds of persuasive information. Canadians use up to 15 billion plastic bags a year. A little less than nine bags contain enough petroleum to drive a car one kilometre. It goes on and on.

But not everyone is buying it. Though not exactly a surprise dissenter, local council heckler Terrill Patterson was disgusted with the contribution.

"I hope you don't deal with the budget like this," he said during the question period that now follows every regular council meeting.

He waved a canvas bag in front of council, saying he, like all other residents of Squamish, got the bag when the new recycling totes were rolled out. Those bags were paid for by the district, as are the ones by GF, continued Patterson. Something redundant this way comes.

But Councillor Doug Race wasn't having it. With an odd kind of smile, he told Patterson he often uses two canvas bags when he shops. His fridge then became the envy of council.


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