Single-use plastic bags should be left in the time before COVID-19. Photo by Crystal Schick, Yukon News

COLUMN: Single-use plastics have no place in post-pandemic world

We should be taking this opportunity to break old habits

Over the last year or so, I have been working hard to break my single-use plastic habit.

I’ve always felt that single-use plastics have not been good for myself or the planet. I’ve seen the straws stuck in sea turtles’ noses, the demonstrations about how much oil is used to make a plastic water bottle (it’s a lot) and the evidence that there will soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

My turning point was a chance to dive deep into the plastic recycling and disposal business where I found out just how hard it is to dispose of even the most environmentally-friendly plastics.

After digging through piles of compost to find perfectly fine “compostable” plastic cutlery, learning that our recycling program in B.C. only applies to packaging, and not the tonnes of other single-use plastics in our system and that even the most well-intentioned people get this plastic problem completely wrong, I have decided to phase the stuff out of my life completely.

Then a pandemic hit.

READ MORE: Province gives Saanich plastic bag ban bylaw the go-ahead

READ MORE: Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Suddenly, the bulk foods, fresh vegetables and refillable options that I relied on for this were unavailable to me. I couldn’t use my refillable cup at a coffee shop anymore. I could not bring my reusable bag to a grocery store, and bulk bins were out of the question. I resolved to do my best to reduce my plastic consumption, but to allow myself the occasional plastic wrapper or bin, as long as I recycled it. That led me to slide right back into my plastic habit, and now I am no better than I was over a year ago.

I have mixed feelings about the news that Comox Strathcona Waste Management delaying its campaign against single-use plastic bags. I can understand that plastic bags are a cheap, safe way to bring food home from the grocery store, but as the pandemic went on, more and more research has come out showing that refillable containers and bags are no more dangerous than single-use options, especially if they’re cleaned with soap and water between uses.

In June, a group of scientists from 10 countries published a statement outlining how reusable items can be used safely with basic hygiene in place.

Some grocery stores are allowing customers to bring in their own reusable bags, and all of the stores I have shopped at have a paper bag option and have throughout the pandemic.

This should be a time where we try new things so that as we adjust to life after the pandemic, we leave behind all of the problematic behaviours we have picked up over the years.

There are options in Campbell River and in nearby towns that allow people to do their shopping without having to use a plastic bag.

Based on this research, CWSM should feel comfortable with moving forward on its bag ban campaign.

Because as we recover from this crisis, we have to be working on fixing all of the other crises our world faces, especially the climate.

Marc Kitteringham is a Campbell River-based Vancouver Island journalist. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Plastic Bag Ban

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