Edmonton to look at banning, taxing plastic bags

Edmonton should become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic bags or impose a tax to discourage their use, a city councillor urged Wednesday.

Edmonton should become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic bags or impose a tax to discourage their use, a city councillor urged Wednesday.

Coun. Linda Sloan asked for a report from city staff at a meeting of council's executive committee on ways to limit the use of plastic bags by grocery stores and other retailers.

"They are a constant source of irritation to people in the spring time because much of our litter along fence lines and boulevards is plastic bags," Sloan told CBC News outside the meeting.

Coun. Linda Sloan wants Edmonton to get more people using alternatives to plastic bags by banning them or imposing a tax. ((CBC))

She said she has been trying to cut back on her own use of plastic bags, and wants to see others do the same.

"Personally, for probably the last five years I have tried very very hard both in retail and grocery shops to use reusable cloth bags I keep in my car."

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel agrees the city should consider ways to reduce the use of plastic bags.

"If it's costing us money to process it, if it's those sort of things, I think it's our job to make sure we find a way to pass less costs on."

In 2006, Edmonton's waste management branch recycled 164 tonnes of plastic bags, said spokesperson Connie Boyce.

A 2007 survey showed plastic bags accounted for about 1.4 per cent of all litter on city streets.

"That's a relatively small percentage," said Boyce. "But they are white and bright, and very noticeable."

Other communities making efforts

Leaf Rapids, Man., a town of about 500, banned plastic bags last year.

Nova Scotia's liquor stores are aggressively phasing out plastic bags by this fall, offering customers free cloth bags if they buy three bottles of wine this month. In the meantime, the liquor stores say they will issue bags made from 40 per cent recycled material.

The Manitoba government also announced in March that it had stopped replacing its liquor stores' supplies of plastic bags, leaving customers with a choice of paper or reusable polypropylene bags.

Ontario should seriously consider following the example and ban the province's liquor stores from handing out plastic bags, Premier Dalton McGuinty said earlier this month.

The Edmonton report on ways to deal with plastic bags is expected to take several months.