Could an all-out ban halt the growing number of plastic bags littering landfills and roadways? Moose Jaw’s Youth Advisory Committee thinks so.
“They last for 1,000 years and they’ve only been created 50 years ago,” vice-chair Rachel Butt said. “That kind of waste just builds up and builds up.”
The group is calling on the city to ban all single use plastic bags- following in the steps of Montreal, Victoria, Fort McMurray and some smaller Manitoba committees.
Council is on board with cutting down on plastic, but says it’s too soon to set anything in stone.
“There’s some businesses that use them, and they would need options,” Mayor Fraser Tolmie said. “Instead of being combative, we need to find a way to collaborate.”
Not everyone knows what to do with plastic bags in the first place.
Smaller cities like Moose Jaw and Prince Albert accept them in blue recycling bins, but larger centres like Regina and Saskatoon don’t. It’s up to the recycling company contracted out by each city to decide whether or not to accept the bags and sell the material.
“The market for plastic bags has drastically changed in 2018,” Naomi Mihilewicz of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council said. “Prior to 2018, China was purchasing most of the plastic film or plastic bags that were being recycled. Once that market disappeared, all of a sudden there was nowhere to send that material. Unless they’re being made into something new and purchased by somebody there’s no point in collecting them.”
Beyond that, the thin material is notoriously hard on machinery. Instead of recycling, most cities suggest the bags be returned to places like grocery stores and food banks, or put in garbage cans destined for the landfill.
Still, the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council says it all comes down to whether a ban is worth it for a community. While the plastic is detrimental to the environment and could still make its way in from shopping in other communities, a ban it could also alienate some businesses.
Mihilewicz says this could be a situation where it makes more sense to reuse than recycle.
“We need to reward reusable options instead of taking away that one disposable option. They may just move to other alternatives, they may just switch to paper bags, which aren’t that much better,” Mihilewicz added. “Plastic bag bans look really great, but they don’t necessarily always solve the issue.”
Moose Jaw’s City Manager and Youth Advisory Committee will be meeting with local businesses to get feedback before bringing the topic back to city council.