SOON KAMLOOPS will be plastic bag free, or so it appears based on this week’s motion from council to direct staff to come up with a framework to ban single-use plastic bags from Kamloops stores.
Kamloops is not on the leading edge of this initiative.
Other countries who have implemented bans include Italy, China, Chile and South Africa. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Mexico City are some of the cities who have banned bags.
Closer to home, Montreal and Victoria have also implemented a bag ban. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is contemplating a provincewide ban.
Back in 2006, the Dutch banned free plastic bags at their checkouts. It resulted in over 70 per cent drop in the use of plastic bags. I have seen the results first hand, as my sister and her family live in The Netherlands. They carry their groceries out of the shops in reusable sturdy plastic bags and plastic bins. There are almost no plastic bags in her house, except the ones they buy to put the garbage in.
So now it’s Kamloops’ turn.
Previously, Mayor Ken Christian stated that a ban should be brought in at the provincial level. True enough. However, if history is any guide, these types of changes start at the local level.
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, small groups of activists persistently petitioned cities to ban indoor smoking. Eventually they won, one city at a time. In 1999, Toronto was the first major Canadian city to ban indoor smoking. Vancouver followed in 2000. The first provincial ban on indoor smoking ban was in British Columbia in 2002.
Municipalities lead and provinces follow on issues like plastic bag use and indoor smoking.
Victoria, Tofino and Salmon Arm have already brought in single-use plastic bag bans. Vancouver is “exploring” how to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. Other cities such as Terrace and Qualicum Beach are investigating too.
It is inevitable that there will be provincial legislation to harmonize plastic bag use across the province. Otherwise, it creates chaos for retailers, especially those with stores in multiple cities.
This is the perfect opportunity for Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, Official Opposition Critic for Environment and Climate Change, to champion the good cause.
The cow is out of the barn. Plastic bag bans are being implemented across the province. But a city by city, piecemeal, inconsistent approach helps no one.
There are some excellent models to look at. Some jurisdictions impose a mandatory fee for any bags purchased at a checkout. Others give shoppers the option of purchasing reusable bags, but don’t provide single-use bags.
What’s needed now, before other municipalities follow suit, is for the province to do their job and bring in legislation that applies province-wide.
Milobar, with his previous experience in retail, as well as his past role as mayor of Kamloops, could bring a lot of clarity to legislation.
Here’s hoping whatever ban Kamloops puts in place is short-lived, to be replaced by provincial legislation. Here’s hoping Milobar plays a part in making this happen.
Nancy Bepple is a former Kamloops City councillor.