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Plastic bag-free Pemberton moves forward

An 80% reduction in bag and disposable coffee cups by 2010

By Cindy Filipenko

The VOP passed a motion May 15 to encourage residents and businesses to reduce the use of plastic bags and disposable coffee cups by 80 per cent by 2010.

The motion, made by Councillor Jennie Helmer, came on the heels of a presentation from Tracey Saxby of Green Footprints. Green Footprints is a non-profit organization that was behind Rossland, B.C.’s recent move to ban plastic bags. That initiative was implemented earlier this spring amidst a storm of media interest. According to Saxby, Rossland is on track for 100 per cent reduction of plastic bags by the end of the summer.

In her presentation she noted that the amount of energy consumed by 8.7 plastic bags is equivalent to that used by 1 km of car travel. She estimates that Canadians use between 9 billion and 15 billion plastic bags a year. She believes the time for implementing the program is right.

“The current landfill in Squamish closes in 2008. By reducing our plastic bag waste we can save money by extending the life of the new landfill,” said Saxby.

The reusable bag advocate pointed out that the ideal replacement for plastic bags are the reusable cotton or polyfibre bags and that biodegradable bags, are at best, a compromise.

“The conditions for biodegradable bags to break down have to be ideal. If they’re put in a landfill and buried they produce methane, which is a more harmful green house gas than C02,” she said.

She further pointed out that the cost of producing the bags was high and had resulted in higher food costs, as corn was now being grown for ethanol instead of food.

Councillor Mark Blundell said that the polyfibre bags sold at Pemberton Valley Supermarket had proven very successful. The first 2,000 bags had sold out in a matter of weeks and he had just re-ordered an additional 3,000 bags.

“Reusable bag use has doubled from what it was a month ago,” said the councillor who is co-owner of the aforementioned grocery store.

Councillor David MacKenzie suggested that it would be prudent to have community retailers meet to establish a level of interest and chart a course of action, an idea that was welcomed by the rest of council.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy suggested the issue be brought to the attention of the SLRD to tie in with current waste management strategies.

Squamish’s municipal government passed a similar motion to reduce plastic bag consumption in that community by 50 per cent.