Plastic bag ban gets closer look

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Council will receive a report by the end of September on the pros and cons of a ban on single-use  bags.

Councillors agreed on Monday to have the report prepared. It will include a look at the environmental, economic and lifestyle impacts of such a ban, as well as possible exemptions.

However, council will not pursue a report on banning single-use plastic straws and cutlery.

Single-use bags are typically thin plastic bags, although they could include paper bags as well.

Both motions came from Coun. Natalie Joly, who said she considered putting in information requests but decided to pursue a motion instead, given the amount of work city staff may need to do on the reports.

“I’ve received more emails to show support for this motion than I have for any other topic, including some of the contentious ones we’ve seen already in the last couple months,” Joly said regarding her single-use bag motion.

Mayor Cathy Heron, who voted in favour of the report, and Coun. Sheena Hughes, who voted against, both said they use plastic bags more than once – including as garbage bags or to pick up dog waste.

Heron said the environmental footprint of canvas bags, which are often not made in Canada, as well as heavier plastic bags need to be taken into consideration as well.

“We need to have this conversation,” she said.

Hughes argued the prospect of a ban on plastic bags could negatively impact St. Albert’s business community as residents could choose to shop elsewhere.

“Everyone in the capital region is competing for the dollars of residents, including St. Albert residents,” she said.

‘Contraband forks’ off the table

Councillors agreed not to move forward on Joly’s motion for a report on the prospect of banning plastic straws and cutlery.

Joly described her motion as “bold” and said her purpose was to gather background info so a potential bylaw could be discussed in the future.

“I think my intention is looking at what other people are doing,” she said, adding her intent would be for businesses to not provide them.

Coun. Ray Watkins said the possibility of a ban on plastic straws and cutlery has “huge implications” for the fast food industry and would face strong opposition from businesses.

“I think we’re just wasting staff time exploring a bylaw we’re not going to bring forward eventually or ever,” he said.

Hughes questioned how such a ban would be enforced and what kind of penalties the city could possibly impose on individuals found with “contraband forks.”

City staff described both potential bans as regional and provincial issues, noting they could be brought up with the Edmonton Region Waste Minimization Committee.

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