Nfld. & Labrador

Corner Brook plastic bag ban 'a no-brainer,' petition says

A petition calling to ban plastic bags in Corner Brook is gaining traction, after a city councillor said earlier this week that he's considering the move.

Woman behind petition has collected nearly 200 signatures of support

Walmart says that "unacceptably high” merchant fees has prompted it to stop accepting Visa cards. (Danny Johnston/Associated Press/Canadian Press)

A petition calling to ban plastic bags in Corner Brook is gaining traction, after a city councillor said earlier this week that he's considering the move.

Nearly 200 people have signed an online petition to "end plastic bags in Corner Brook stores." The petition was started by local woman Sara Squires.

"People have a habit that needs to be changed, a mindset that needs to be changed," Squires told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

"It takes a bit of time, but it's something I think is achievable in the community, and in the province as well."

First-time city councillor Keith Cormier said he's considering a motion to ban plastic bags at all Corner Brook stores.

Too harmful to ignore

Cormier said the city of about 20,000 people uses approximately 20 million bags each year.

And Squires said those numbers are just too harmful to ignore.

"I've always been very passionate about the environment. The fact that it provides us with fresh air, clean water, productive soil is something you cannot put a price on," she said.

"When I saw that Councillor Cormier has been public about a potential ban on plastic bags it was a no-brainer for me. We need to show that we as a community support this initiative."

Squires said public reaction to the petition has been positive so far, with several people posting supportive comments. 

Since its launch, comments on the petition have been highly supportive. (iPetition)

Squires said she realizes an immediate all-out ban probably wouldn't work, but suggests a gradual process of phasing pastic bags out.

"I think there needs to be a transition, maybe charging for plastic bags or having the availability of brown paper bags," she said.

"That way people would start to see the money adding up on their bills and think, 'I need to get this reusable bag on the go.'"

No legal power to ban

While Mayor Charles Pender says he'd like to see an end to the plastic bag, he told the Corner Brook Morning Show on Monday that the city has no power to order a ban among businesses in the city.

He said that the City of Corner Brook Act, enacted by the provincial government, doesn't give the city power to regulate sales.

"If it's not in the legislation, generally, we can't do it," he said. "We have three municipal enforcement officers, [so] it would be very difficult for us to do it even if we were legally allowed."

Instead, Pender said he'd like to see a community movement organized among citizens and businesses in Corner Brook to end plastic bag use — like what happened on Fogo Island.

If we take a lead role as a city...maybe in a year or so we could be free of plastic bags.- Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender

"That's what it is going to take. It's going to take community involvement, it's going to take individual responsibility and collective responsibility for the environment," he said.  

"And people need to feel that need that they need to change their ways."

Pender says the city is working on a strategy to approach businesses and advocate for an end of plastic bags.

"If we take a lead role as a city to encourage that change, we can implement that change. And maybe in a year or so we could be free of plastic bags."