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Plastic bag ban worth a look, say candidates

Encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags in St. Albert is an idea that is gaining in popularity among a growing number of residents, and a few city council candidates. Earlier this year, outgoing Coun.

Encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags in St. Albert is an idea that is gaining in popularity among a growing number of residents, and a few city council candidates.

Earlier this year, outgoing Coun. Carol Watamaniuk filed a notice of motion to have city staff investigate how other municipalities deal with plastic bags bans and to bring appropriate recommendations to council in 2011.

In order for the issue to move forward, a member of the new council will need to move the motion in order to get it into council debate.

Last month, Fort McMurray banned the use of single-use plastic shopping bags except those from fast food restaurants, pharmacies, liquor stores and plastic bags used to purchase bulk items. That city’s bylaw includes plastic, paper and some types of biodegradable bags.

Here in St. Albert, Mayor Nolan Crouse has suggested assessing a bylaw that influences the reduced use or elimination of plastic shopping bags.

Although he admits he hasn’t done much research into how the issue of a plastic bag ban in St. Albert might look, Crouse said the city can certainly learn from the example set by other municipalities who have supported such a ban.

“Other people have already gone in that direction so what we’d want to do is learn from it,” he said.

“It’s something I would like to see happen in St. Albert if it has been successful in other jurisdictions.”

Should the new council decide to move in that direction, Crouse said St. Albert’s grocery retailers, which include Sobey’s, Safeway, Save-On Foods and Walmart, would have to be involved.

“Maybe it’s not even a bylaw, maybe it’s something where we get everyone on board in a volunteer fashion,” he said.

Council candidate Cathy Heron said she would also like to see the use of reusable shopping bags encouraged among St. Albert residents.

“If I’m sitting on council, I may make a motion. I have to talk to more residents. I’m not a big proponent of forcing people to do things, I’d rather incentivize,” said Heron.

One idea, she said, is for St. Albert to produce reusable shopping bags with the city’s logo on them.

“We could sell them, not to raise money, just to break even. And if you’re using that bag in some of the local stores in St. Albert, some of the chamber-supported stores or whatever, you might get a discount or a free something or other. It’s something we could easily explore to incentivize,” Heron explained.

“I think it’s worth investigating.”

If elected, candidate Norm Harley said he would propose incentives for residents to switch from paper and plastic grocery bags to environmentally friendly bags similar to what Fort McMurray has done.

“We could have an incentive where every household gets two of these environmentally friendly tote bags and it would be a heck of a lot better than these plastic shopping bags.”

“If the City of St. Albert went to a supplier and bought them in big enough bulk, you can buy them, I think they’re 99 cents so it’s not a major purchase.”

Earlier this year, Alberta signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors to reduce plastic bag usage in Alberta over a five-year period. The organization, which includes Sobey’s, Safeway and Loblaws, has committed to a 30 per cent reduction in plastic bags over three years and a 50 per cent reduction over five years.

“We believe this is the most effective way to address the issue,” said senior vice-president Dave Wilkes.

In order to effectively curb the use of plastic bags, he said a number of things must happen, including educating consumers and providing alternatives for carrying groceries.

Wilkes said proper packaging techniques and encouraging the use of reusable bags are also important steps in reducing plastic bag use.

“Those types of things will result in a reduction of plastic bags,” he said.

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