Nfld. & Labrador

#BanTheBag: Mayors ask people to write MHAs about banning plastic bags

A group of community leaders wants people to join in the effort to get the Newfoundland and Labrador government to ban plastic shopping bags.

MNL coins Thursday day of action in effort to ban plastic bags

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador is pushing the provincial government to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, in an effort to keep them out of the environment. (CBC)

A group of community leaders wants people to join in the effort to get the Newfoundland and Labrador government to ban single-use plastic shopping bags.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) has called Thursday a day of action on the issue, and is asking people to take photos of discarded plastic bags they see in their towns and neighbourhoods and send them to members of government.

"Send them pictures of plastic bags in your environment, what you see every day," MNL President Karen Oldford told the St. John's Morning Show.

"Let's really try to mobilize banning the single-use plastic bag, which is really just a convenience, it's not a neccessity."

Municipalities N.L. President Karen Oldford, who is also the mayor of Labrador city, is leading efforts to ban plastic bags in the province. (CBC)

Oldford said it shouldn't be too difficult for people to find plastic bags outside somewhere near where they live, and that they should send their photos by email or social media to Minister Eddie Joyce or Minister Perry Trimper, using the hashtag #banthebag.

Government did previously agree to form a technical committee on plastic bags, but Oldford said it's time to make it happen as it's a relatively straightforward way to improve the state of the province's land and marine areas.

"We feel this is a fairly simple fix to our environment," she said. "The only way you're going to eat this elephant is to tackle one bite at a time — so we feel the quickest way to tackle it would be through banning the single-use plastic bag."

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents 2,000 businesses in the province, has previously said a government ban on single-use plastic bags would be too heavy-handed, and other options should be considered first.

However, Fogo Island successfully banned plastic bags two years ago, which Oldford said shows that it can be done with the proper vision and participation.

Change in behaviour

Oldford said all it takes is a change of behaviour for shoppers, and giving the business community enough time to plan for it so they aren't left with thousands of plastic bags in their inventory on the day the ban takes effect.

She points to Costco as an example, as it doesn't provide plastic bags to customers and people continue to shop there.

"[Plastic bags] weren't around until the 70s, and we can certainly replace them with reusable bags," she said.

Plastic bags seen in the forest near the Robin Hood Bay Landfill in St. John's. (CBC)

Tackling the problem of plastic bags is something that needs to be addressed now, Oldford said, because she's constantly hearing of fishermen and hunters in the province who are finding plastic, not only in the environment, but also in the animals that they hunt, which are then consumed by people.

"Research we've seen in other places that have done this – other countries – has been very effective. We just need to bite the bullet and do this," she said.

"This is causing real environmental contamination, because these will take thousands of years to break down fully."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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