Lana Popham says being caught in a game of jurisdictional ping-pong between the Capital Regional District and its constituent municipalities won’t hamper her quest to see plastic grocery bags banned on the south Island.
Popham, a one-time—and future, she promises—candidate for Saanich council, asked the CRD’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee for an outright ban on disposable plastic grocery bags in the region at its December 13 meeting.
CRD didn’t bite however, citing Hartland Landfill manager Tom Watkins’ assessment that plastic bags account for only one percent of material in the dump.
CRD staff concluded a ban on plastic bags at the landfill would be too difficult to enforce, and bags won’t be added to the dump’s list of 13 banned materials by the close of 2008, as Popham initially requested.
But the Saanich farmer took that news in stride.
“Now the municipalities can be on notice that this issue will be coming soon to a meeting near you,” she says. Popham is already on the agenda for a January North Saanich council session.
Popham was rebuffed in her initial approaches to municipalities in the area and was instead told that banning bags qualified as a regional issue. However, CRD has said it does not have the authority to ban plastic bags at point of sale, nor does it have the regulatory authority to impose a tax on bags that would be passed on to users.
Saanich councillor and CRD director Judy Brownoff says the issue is one that concerns every municipality in the region.
“As a CRD director and a Saanich politician, I believe this is a regional issue,” she says. “It’s one of those issues that crosses all borders. Could we ban [plastic grocery bags]? I guess we could, but we’d have to get everyone to buy in,” she says.
Instead, Brownoff says businesses should voluntarily embrace the use of cloth totes.
“Yes, it will cost a little more up front, but the cloth bags with the businesses logo on the sides will be around for a lot longer,” she says.
In April 2007, Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, became the first Canadian municipality to impose an outright ban on plastic bags, with businesses risking fines up to $1,000 if they distribute them.