Lisa Wegner shows some alternatives to plastic bags she uses (from left): handwoven craft bags, made of old plastic; an elephant-grass bag; and an unbleached cotton bag. File photo

Rossland moves forward on single-use plastic bag ban bylaw

Bylaw given first reading at last council meeting

Residents of Rossland are going to hear a lot more about recycling and reusing over the next few months, as plans to ban plastic bags from the city got a push at the last council meeting.

City councillors voted on April 15 to give first reading to a bylaw to ban single-use bags from retail stores in the community.

“We thought, do first reading and get the conversation going in the community, talk to people about it, and kind of ease into it,” says Mayor Kathy Moore. “Nobody is doing anything until we adopt the bylaw, so we figured we may as well speed up the process and adopt the bylaw.”

With the ball officially rolling, other players will begin work, says Moore.

There are loose knit organizations in the community — environmental activists, student groups, and others — who are getting ready to launch a blitz of programs to help the community move towards the plastic ban.

All sorts of activities are being planned to promote and educate about the ban, say people promoting the project.

“Rossland is approaching the upcoming ban by offering solutions and alternatives,” says Lisa Wegner of the Plastics Free Group. “Volunteers will continue to be front and centre in helping Rossland’s residents.

Wegner says she’s been encouraged by the uptake.

“I am also confident by the continued actions of Rossland’s merchants,” she says. “Most restaurants have stopped offering plastic straws, some retailers are only offering paper bags already, and almost all ask, ‘do you need a bag?’”

One of the first promotional events will be next week. On May 2 and 3, students at Rossland Summit School will perform The Lorax, a musical based on Dr. Seuss’ environmentally-themed children’s book. Admission to the show is a cloth bag or by donation. The Grade 3 and 4 students will wash the bags, and then distribute them to the interested businesses to be used as borrow-able, share-able bags.

“The students’ involvement speaks volumes about how it’s really a minor concession in terms of reducing the reliance of the convenience of single-use plastics,” says Wegner. “The frightening reality of how much single use plastics has become part of our daily lives has a younger generation recognizing the current state of just how out-of-control it has become.

“So they are speaking out and being active.”

Wegner says with time, people will make re-usable bags part of their daily life.

Expanding the ban

But plastic bags are only the first target.

“Right now we just really need to raise awareness,” says Mayor Moore. Eventually, she says, the conversation will also move to banning other single-use plastics, like drinking straws and coffee cup lids.

There will likely be a period of six months to let people go through their stock of plastic bags, and to help business owners build links to alternative bagging options.

Moore says she thinks the community is ready for the plastic bag ban. She says a lot has changed since the idea first came up in 2007, and while there’s still some resistance, people are a lot more aware of the problem that plastic is causing our world.

“In the big picture, we are drowning in plastic, and this stuff never goes away,” she says. “We can do our part. It won’t be a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, as there are whole countries that have banned plastic bags.”

Moore says there’s no set date for finally passing the bylaw, but she doesn’t expect any insurmountable hurdles.

“This is not cutting-edge legislation,” she says. “This is just being responsible environmental stewards. And we like to think in Rossland that we are.”

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Rossland will become one of the first communities in BC’s interior to ban single-use plastic bags. Photo: John Boivin

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