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Move begins on banning single-use plastic bags in Nelson

It is estimated that approximately a trillion plastic bags are used around the world every year — of which three billion are used in Canada alone — with the average plastic bag used for 20 minutes, taking more than 400 years to break down. — The Nelson Daily photo

Single-use plastic bags could be on the endangered species list in Nelson.

The city will be contacting the business community to set out a timeline to discuss phasing out single use plastic bags in Nelson.

Mayor Deb Kozak told council on Tuesday during its regular meeting that the idea — which had been discussed at the council level for several years — needed to move from the back burner to the front of the stove.

“I think business owners have been supportive of this and I don’t think we will have much to do there (to convince them) but they need to be notified,” she said.

“So it’s time we did something (about it). Let’s put that on the agenda for discussion quick.”

She noted that council could have a conversation with Nelson Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson on how to implement the ban on single-use bags (grocery).

City manager Kevin Cormack said setting up the ban could go on the priority list for city staff, but something will have to drop down in order for it to be fast tracked.

In Canada, one major city has banned single-use plastic bags — Montreal — with Victoria expected to be added to that company this summer. Under the new ban in Victoria there will be exceptions: stores can still offer plastic bags to package bulk items as well as for meat, prescriptions and dry cleaning.

Coun. Anna Purcell said a previous campaign request brought to council two years ago to ban single-use bags received “lots of support” from Baker Street businesses for banning the bags, as well as collecting more than 2,000 signatures from across the community on a petition to ban the bags.

A motion was passed that city staff put on the agenda the banning of single-use plastic bags in Nelson.

The majority of plastic bag bans arise out of the increasingly recognized problem of plastic pollution.

Cormack said there were challenges the city had in its own blue bag program where people were putting single-use plastics into the blue bags when they should not.

Soft plastics are difficult to recycle and re-use, he said, so the recycling program does not accept them.

“They are a real problem in the recycling system,” Cormack said. Victoria, like other cities across Canada, is struggling with the amount of waste single-use plastic bags create. According to statistics gathered by the city, 17 million plastic bags were used each year by Victoria residents, and making up more than 15 per cent of landfill waste.

When the plastic bag ban kicks in by 2019 in Victoria, businesses that do not conform to the ban could face fines ranging from $100 to $10,000.

It is estimated that approximately a trillion plastic bags are used around the world every year — of which three billion are used in Canada alone — with the average plastic bag used for 20 minutes, taking more than 400 years to break down.

Of those disposed plastic bags, the majority of them end up in the world’s oceans and other waterways, persisting over time as “microplastics” as a threat to marine life.

However, industry stakeholders — such as the Canadian Plastics Industry Association — said banning bags was a mistake, arguing that plastic bags that wind up in landfills could be recycled.