Council says 'no' to plastic bag bylaw, for now 

Whistler council agreed that a bylaw banning plastic bags would be too much too soon for Whistler. They voted unanimously to refer the issue back to staff after a lengthy discussion Tuesday night.

Staff presented a report endorsing a resort-wide ban on plastic bags. Through the bylaw, storeowners would only give out reusable bags. Council was to vote on directing staff to continue communication and community engagement about the proposed ban.

None of the councillors agreed that a ban would be in the community's best interest. Councillor Chris Quinlan, who advocated a slower phasing-out process rather than an outright ban, amended the motion with staff to engage the public in more education about the benefits of reusable bags, in the hope that education alone would help reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the garbage and recycling system.

"Is it not easier for us to go out and do that, as opposed to going out and trying to regulate everything? Because with regulation comes enforcement and enforcement costs money," he said. "I would hope that we could work toward that, a little bit of education instead of regulation because the landscape is going to change again."

Nicolette Richer, the municipality's environmental coordinator who gave the presentation, said that education alone would not achieve anything and that it would need to be aided by a bylaw and by communication in order to be effective.

"Unless you have those three things in place, often education alone won't get you as much," she said.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler endorsed the idea of a tax on plastic bags, a policy that many communities across North America have adopted, reasoning that consumers will be less likely to use plastic bags if they have to pay for them.

Richer said that introducing a new tax could end up costing the municipality significantly more money and, according to the legal review staff received through the research process, the spending of that tax revenue is very limited. She said the best option for council would be to adopt a reusable bag policy.

Acting Mayor Ted Milner said that it simply isn't feasible in a resort with such a high turnover of visitors to sell them reusable bags.

"It just becomes an added cost, like pay-parking and everything else in the resort side," he said. "I think by the time (this report) comes back here, you really should ponder the price to the consumer, whether it's a visitor or a member of the community."

 

"Sit tight" over asphalt plant concerns: Milner

Acting Mayor Ted Milner told members of the public to "sit tight" over asphalt plant concerns.

At Tuesday's public question period three community members expressed concern over the smell the plant has recently been emitting, particularly on Monday morning.

Milner said that the Highway 99 repaving project is almost done and the plant will soon be closed for the winter.

"I would suggest to sit tight," he said.

He added that, if Alpine Paving continues to operate from its current location next summer, council would work on a new plan then. He said council couldn't work on a new plan if the plant is not operating - staff will need to collect all the necessary data and until then, it's too early to make any decisions.

The repaving project is due to be complete the last week of October or first week of November, depending on the weather.

Dave Buzzard, who resides in Emerald Estates, said that he visited Cheakamus Crossing after receiving a call from a friend about the strong odour and was "still nauseous" at the time of the council meeting.

He also expressed concern that the air quality monitoring chart that day showed a dramatic spike in particulate in the air - 30 micrograms per cubic metre, well above the "poor" zone according to the provincial standard.

Harry Kim, general manager of environmental services for the RMOW, said that people should only be concerned about 24-hour averages, which have been sitting around 10 micograms per cubic metre on most days when the plant is operating.

 

 

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