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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Elected as a Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for the Constituency of Saanich South on May 12, 2009. New Democratic Opposition Critic for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Raised on Quadra Island and has an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia. Extensive track record as a community leader, advocate and environmental activist.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The plastics industry rearing their heads....

Canadian Plastics Industry Associations

To CRD Environment Committee Members

As the CRD explores issues related to plastic shopping bags, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association would like to provide you with an overview of experiences in other jurisdictions. The information provided is well documented on the public record and provides valuable lessons for policy initiatives on plastic shopping bags. The industry would also like to put forward some ideas on how we can partner together.

Let us begin by saying that we strongly agree with concerns about the “excessive or irresponsible” use of our product. While we recognize that plastic shopping bags are not a landfill problem (less than 1% of landfill), we believe this has to be about the wise use of our resources. These bags are a valuable resource and should be diverted from landfill as much as possible and recycled.

Many provinces in Canada have successful diversion programs for plastic shopping bags and achieve solid recycling rates – Alberta – 32%, Nova Scotia – 45%, B.C. 35%.
In fact, B.C. is the undisputed leader in voluntary product stewardship in Canada on in-store recycling of plastic shopping bags. Fifteen years ago, these progressive retailers put in place a province-wide network offering in-store recycling of plastic shopping bags. Many prominent retailers participate including Overwaitea, London Drugs, Safeway, Walmart, Save On Foods, Thrifty Foods, and Choices.

What has been learned
Experience in other jurisdictions shows that the best solution for plastic shopping bags is a constructive, positive approach. It is an approach that builds on the traditional environmental principles of reduce, re-use and recycle, effective partnerships, and public education programs that empower and motivate people to act.

Here are some of the lessons:
• bans and taxes don’t work - they have the complete opposite effect from what is intended and actually lead to greater consumption of plastic and paper
• the prime example is Ireland’s bag tax which led to a 21% increase in the amount of plastic consumed in Ireland as people substituted heavier plastic kitchen catchers which could be purchased off the shelf tax-free even though the number of bags distributed at checkout declined 90% (PIFA / Mike Kidwell Associates 2006)
• another example is Taiwan which lifted its ban on plastic bags in the fast food sector because it led to a mountain of waste (paper and plastic) going to landfill; Taiwan is now focusing on recycling
• North America is developing an approach based on diversion and recycling.
• many jurisdictions in Canada have highly successful diversion/recycling programs for bags on which to build a go forward solution

What other jurisdictions are doing
The issue of bag bans and taxes has been researched thoroughly in Europe and rejected by many advanced economies – Scotland, the U.K., New Zealand, Italy, the European Union, New York City, and the State of California.

The Scottish government, starting in 2004, spent two years in public hearings on the Irish bag tax (defacto ban) gathering expert opinion and listening to testimony from various governments. In the end, the Scottish government rejected this approach as bad public policy because bans/taxes have a number of negative unintended consequences such as actually increasing the amount of plastic consumed.

North America is moving aggressively on recycling and diversion from landfill. Many jurisdictions in the U.S. are enacting mandatory in-store bag recycling for large retailers across all classes of trade. The State of California law on mandatory recycling came into effect last July and New York City just passed their bylaw on mandatory recycling for plastic bags and film in their city.

In Canada, bans and taxes have been examined and rejected by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, the Greater Vancouver Regional District Waste Reduction Committee, and some 35 municipalities across the country.

Many municipalities are promoting wise use (the 3’R’s’) with highly successful grassroots “Say yes to reuse and recycling” programs. These programs are designed not only to expand the recycling infrastructure, but build public awareness and empower residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. Examples include Sault Ste Marie in Ontario, the City of Ottawa, and Halton and Durham Regions with their “Take-It-Back” Programs.

The way forward
The plastics industry would like to recommend a solution for consideration by the CRD; a solution focused on the 3 “R’s”. The proposed solution would:

- Build on the existing highly successful in-store recycling infrastructure in the CRD and expand it to include big box stores and mass merchandisers; CPIA would work with the CRD to organize a meeting with non-participating retailers to help get them on board.
- CPIA will undertake ongoing public education using the media and other tools to promote the 3 “R’s” on bags with residents; endorsed by the CRD.
- The CPIA will provide an actual listing of participating stores recycling bags to the CRD for loading on their website so that the CRD can help direct residents to stores recycling bags. The listing will be updated regularly by the CPIA.
- The CPIA will produce and provide free of charge 2’x3’ posters to each retail location recycling bags. These posters will be placed above the recycle bins in order to build profile of and promote the program to customers.
- The CPIA will contact the retailer associations in B.C. to provide assurances that all of their members will offer all choices including reusable bags, recycling, bins, and other options.
- The CPIA will undertake a media campaign on better bagging at checkout which will help reduce the number of bags distributed in the first place.

As a partner, we would ask that the CRD lend its support to these initiatives and endorse the 3 “R’s”. If you should have any further questions or would like to discuss in more detail what has happened in different countries, please feel free to contact me.

Yours truly,

Cathy Cirko
Vice President, Environment and Health
Canadian Plastics Industry Association
Tel.: 905-678-7405 ext 234