Nfld. & Labrador·Waves of Change

This small town 'had to take a stand' against plastic, so it handed out 800 reusable bags

The town of New-Wes-Valley has purchased the reusable shopping bags to give to its residents free of charge.

'We need to do this for future generations,' town's mayor says

Mayor Kenneth Hoyles hopes other communities will follow New-Wes-Valley's lead in providing reusable shopping bags for their residents. (John Gaudi/CBC )

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.   

One small town on the northern edge of the Bonavista Bay is launching a big effort to cut down on single-use plastics.

The town of New-Wes-Valley has purchased roughly 800 reusable shopping bags to give to its residents free of charge, with the plan to reduce the amount of plastic shopping bags heading to their landfill. 

"We had to take a stand. We had to start somewhere, right?," said Mayor Kenneth Hoyles. 

Hoyles acknowledged it will take time for community residents to get on board with the plan. But if the town moves forward with banning plastic bags altogether, he said, an alternative has to be available.

New-Wes-Valley hopes other communities will follow their lead and also provide reusable bags for citizens. Hoyles said starting small and coming up with a viable plan is the key to finding success in new environmental initiatives.  

"If we don't take the stand, who is? We need to do this for future generations, for our youth and, of course, for us as old folks as well," Hoyles told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning

"If everyone were to make one small change, like we had done as a town, of course together we can make a huge difference." 

It's in the budget

Residents of the community have responded positively to the new policy, according to Hoyles, but the town isn't stopping there. 

The next phase is to approach the business community to see where the town can help implement reusable bags at the retail level.

The town of New-Wes-Valley is handing out reusable shopping bags to its residents to reduce the amount of single-use plastics heading to the landfill, as seen here outside of the Robin Hood Bay waste management facility in St. John's. (CBC)

Starting with 2019, the town has worked reusable shopping bags into its budget as a yearly environmentally friendly initiative, is committed to making all town events environmentally friendly, Hoyles said.

"The aim is to reduce our waste," he said.

"It needs to be taken care of right now. We don't have that kind of time. Our universe is getting swamped with plastics, so here's an opportunity for us to start to educate our people and to move forward on this issue."

Education is important

It's not uncommon to find plastic bags snagged in trees, torn and tattered in roadside ditches, or even in bodies of water, and it's a problem that needs to be addressed, Hoyles said. 

It all begins with educating the public about the impact that single-use plastics are having on the environment, he said. 

"Education is the part here. We need to educate our youth and we need to educate the remainder of our citizens as well," he said. 

"Of course, we're not the only town. It's every town."  

Join the discussion on the CBC Waves of Change Facebook group, or email us: wavesofchange@cbc.ca.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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