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Move to eliminate single-use plastics in Nelson advanced through council

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
July 12th, 2019

The city will be looking to try out a temporary crash diet later this year in an attempt to wean Nelsonites off of single-use plastics.

A resolution has been passed in council chambers Monday night to work with the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and other local groups in order to establish a single-use plastics free period, as well as defining what those plastics might be.

Introduced by Coun. Rik Logtenberg as a late item, he iterated how destructive single-use plastics were — as a threat to ocean health, global warming — and that the recycling of plastics has proven to be inefficient and ineffective.

He wanted the city to write an open letter to all Nelson and area businesses requesting the voluntary end to the distribution of single-use plastics, asking that the city declare October a plastics-free month work with the chamber of commerce.

The intent of the motion was largely embraced by council, but there was some concern the drafting of the parameters of the motion might take up too much staff time to compile, since the definition of what a single-use plastic was would have to be fleshed out.

“In my mind there is some work, I think, in terms of what are we looking at. Are we looking at every single-use plastic … or are we just looking at plastic bags?” said Coun. Janice Morrison.

“When you mention single-use plastic it just runs the gamut in people’s minds. I think we have to be selective in what” falls under the ban.”

Someone still has to do the work to scale the definition of single-use plastic, she added.

Logtenberg liked the idea of having the chamber take the lead on the initiative.

Coun. Britney Anderson, who first delved into the idea of a single-use plastic ban in Nelson, said she supported a voluntary measure, rather than an enforced ban.

“The reason I support a voluntary measure is that, rather than us being punitive as a city, it empowers the businesses. There are already a lot of businesses focused on that and are doing a lot,” she said.

“Rather than having bylaw going out there and (enforcing), this instead is a way for us all to be more conscious about our plastic use.”

There would also be a trickle down effect from the business community to the rest of the city residents if the voluntary plastic ban was promoted and instituted, she added.

Under the motion the city will work with the chamber of commerce and other local groups to promote reducing single-use plastic. But the idea of eliminating plastic from the menu is already being embraced at the municipal government level, said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“I did ask our staff if we could take leadership on this and see if we can go throughout one month to not use plastics,” he said.

The initiative will go ahead, Cormack said. Logtenberg said council should take the challenge that city staff is taking in that same month.

“It’s not going to be easy boys and girls,” said Mayor John Dooley told council once the motion passed.

The motion parallels a provincial desire to ban plastic shopping bags in B.C. Last September delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention called upon the provincial government to ban plastic shopping bags once and for all — the fifth time since the 1980s the UBCM has asked for a ban.

The ban is intended to substantially reduce the volume of disposable plastic packaging in local solid waste streams.

Already, some B.C. communities have banned single-use plastic bags altogether, including the province’s capital of Victoria.

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