Time to toss single-use plastic bags in Edmonton, group says

6,000 people have signed a petition asking city council to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in Edmonton

6,000 have signed petition asking city council to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in Edmonton

An Edmonton group is pushing the city to ban or place a surcharge on plastic bags. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A group of Edmontonians is pushing city council to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in the city.

"So often we really don't need these things," said Melissa Gorrie, who is with Waste Free Edmonton, a group trying to eliminate single-use items like plastic bags and straws.

"If we can find better, more sustainable substitutes, we would be better off without it," she said. 

More than 6,000 people have signed a petition supporting the group's push as of Thursday.

Montreal recently introduced a ban on plastic bags. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Coun. Ben Henderson plans to ask administration to review plastic bags when a report on Extended Producers Responsibility recycling programs comes to council in June.

Such programs make the producer of the plastic pay the cost of recycling.

"I'm hoping the taste will be there to do more than what we're doing right now," he said.

Ten years ago, council rejected placing a ban or surcharge on plastic bags, deciding it would be too difficult for consumers and retailers to stop using the bags.

But things are different now, Henderson said.

"Unlike where we were at in 2008, there are other municipalities that have gone down different roads on this issue. I think everyone recognizes that minimizing single-use plastic bags is in everyone's interest."

Fort McMurray has had a plastic bag ban in place for nine years. Montreal and Saskatoon have also recently brought in a ban.

This 2008 photo provided by NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center shows debris in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. (The Associated Press/NOAA)

Environmental impact

Studies show plastic bags and other single-use plastic items are polluting the environment and harming wildlife.

A plastic bag ban or a surcharge would encourage Edmontonians to consider the environmental impact of a single-use plastic item, Gorrie said.

"We've become such a disposable society and such a plastic-focused society," Gorrie said. "There just needs to be a little bit more reframing."