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Stores push for voluntary bag ban

Brodie Thomas
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, November 13, 2008

INUVIK - Business owners said they would like to see a voluntary ban on plastic bags rather than an outright ban during a council meeting last Wednesday night.

Retail business owners were invited to voice their concerns at the meeting. A meeting for the general public will be held this Thursday night.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Jacinta Larocque handles hundreds of plastic bags during every shift she works at Stanton's store. Town Council listened to concerns last Wednesday from local retailers on limiting or banning the use of plastic bags. The public can speak to council on the subject this Thursday night. - Brodie Thomas/NNSL photo

Mayor Derek Lindsay said Inuvik retailers spoke favourably of a voluntary ban rather than a legislated ban. A voluntary ban could still allow biodegradable bags at a nominal fee.

"If we go to biodegradable bags, they were talking about a bag tax," said Lindsay.

That tax or tariff for each bag used would go directly to the retailer to offset the higher cost of biodegradable bags.

Plastic bag bans have been springing up in municipalities across Canada. Leaf Rapids, Man., was the first Canadian town to bring in a total ban. Old Crow, Yukon also brought in a plastic bag ban this summer.

A fact sheet handed out at the meeting stated biodegradable bags, both paper and plastic, cost two to three times more to produce than non-biodegradable bags. Paper bags are much heavier in bulk and cost more to transport. It also takes four times the energy to produce a paper bag than a plastic bag.

Lindsay said a voluntary ban would not stop the problem of loose bags blowing around town the way a total ban would.

Joe Lavoie, part owner of V and S Options, Arctic Foods and True Value Hardware, said he and his stores are 100 per cent behind reducing litter.

"I see the amount of garbage that is associated with running a business so whatever can be done to reduce it, I'm for it," he said.

He said he was leaning towards a ban that would give people more options, such as the bag tax and setting up bins where people can bring back plastic bags to be reused.

"It's a long process of encouraging people to recycle and pick up their waste and it's better for all of us in the long run," said Lavoie.

Lindsay said an education program will need to target Inuvik youth because they are the ones who can best bring about change in the long run. He said it is too early to say how an education campaign might work.

"It is something I will personally take to youth subcommittee meetings I attend at Samuel Hearne and hopefully it will filter down to the younger kids," said Lindsay.

For now, all options are still on the table including doing nothing. Lindsay said he hopes to see a good turnout at the public meeting Thursday night.

"Keep in mind your retail stores are a minor segment of the population so if we get a better cross-section of residents, that would be nice to see," he said.

Drafting a bylaw on bags will take several months to develop after the public meeting. Lindsay said not everyone on council is in favour of a ban, so reaching a consensus could take time.