By Dauna Ditson
At the latest District of Invermere and Village of Radium Hot Springs council meetings, councillors discussed banning plastic bags and straws.
Invermere Councillor Paul Denchuk raised the issue of banning plastic bags after visiting Tofino and being impressed with how little plastic waste the community produced.
Mr. Denchuk said his proposal “received a lukewarm response” but he’s going to keep trying. He intends to draft a bylaw banning plastic bags and straws to bring to council by the summer.
Following the discussion in Invermere, the Radium council also debated how to reduce plastic waste.
Mayor Clara Reinhart said she reuses her bags until they wear out and is “a zealot” about it. Even so, she doesn’t think the decision about plastic bags and plastic straws is for council to make.
“I like the idea of businesses taking the lead,” she said, adding that a challenge with creating a bylaw is the question of “who is going to enforce it.”
One challenge with bylaws is that they can end up in court.
The City of Victoria will have to go to court to defend its own bylaw against plastic bags. The Canadian Plastic Bag Association is issuing a legal challenge against the ban, which is scheduled to begin on July 1st.
Mr. Denchuk said lobby groups like the plastic association should not keep communities from taking better care of the environment.
“We just need to push the dinosaurs aside and keep moving forward,” he said.
Radium council is taking a different approach. They aren’t going to ban plastic bags or straws, but Councillor Mike Gray, who owns Horsethief Creek Pub & Eatery, said he and other business owners could be part of the solution when it comes to disposable straws.
While Mr. Gray said biodegradable straws cost five times more than plastic straws, other businesses who’ve swapped out their straws have been able to lower their costs by providing straws only on request. Mr. Gray said he would talk with other businesses about their interest in using fewer straws.
Sydney-Anne Porter, part owner of Valley Foods in Invermere, thinks businesses and customers should be able to choose what they use to carry their groceries home. While Valley Foods uses biodegradable bags and sells cloth bags, Ms. Porter is looking for additional options to reduce plastic waste. She recommends that customers store their wallets in their cloth bags so they remember their bags when they leave home.
But Mr. Denchuk said it’s going to take more than good intentions for the communities to do better. He said a bylaw is necessary to help people change their habits around plastic waste.