Nanaimo councillors vote to ban plastic bags from retailers

‘If we want to try and get something done we should shock people’

Receiving a plastic bag from retailers in Nanaimo could soon be a thing of the past.

Nanaimo city councillors voted in favour of banning the bags during a special council meeting on Monday night. However, a ban won’t take place until city staff can determine whether or not the municipality has the authority to impose one. Staff are expected to report back to council as soon as possible, but no concrete timeline was provided during Monday’s meeting.

The vote followed a presentation to council by Denis Hughes, Kirily Park and Paul Manly, who urged councillors to consider a levy on single-use plastic bags from retailers within the city. They cited studies that highlighted a range of environmental damage caused by plastic bags. The trio also recommended a gradual approach, by implementing a levy and then eventually moving to a full-scale ban.

There was discussion about the scope of a potential ban from councillors, who wondered whether it should extend beyond single-use plastic bags. Councillors also debated about whether or not they had the authority to impose or implement a ban or levy. Staff members were unable to immediately provide an answer to councillors, who elected to go ahead with the vote.

Coun. Bill Yoachim, who made the motion, said there was no point of waiting for a staff report. He said the city should instead ban plastic bags from retailers and then figure out what they’re allowed to do.

“We have got to do what is best for the future right now,” Yoachim said.

Yoachim said the city must take immediate action and protect the environment for future generations. He said Nanaimo should be leaders and a plastic bag ban could inspire other communities to follow.

“Regardless of what we are permitted to do or waiting on larger communities … I believe we should take a bold move and show leadership on the subject,” he said.

Coun. Bill Bestwick said delaying action isn’t going to accomplish anything and a little bit of shock might.

“We need to start somewhere and pushing it off … isn’t going to get us where we want to get to and I think we have all witnessed what shock does,” he said. “So, if we want to try and get something done we should shock people with something.”

Plastic bag bans have been imposed in a number of municipalities in Canada, including Thompson, Man., Brossard, Que., and Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality, Alta. Victoria and Saanich are also considering bans and Montreal is expected to implement a plastic bag ban on retailers next year. In Kenya, using, producing or selling plastic bags can result in prison time and fines of more than $20,000 according to the New York Times.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Manly said his group took the levy approach because they figured it would be better to have people slowly adjust to the idea of not using plastic bags, adding that Thrifty Foods and Costco do not provide customers with plastic bags. He said he was shocked by council’s decision to impose a ban but is pleased with the decision.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said.

More to come


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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