Committee Approves Calgary’s Single-Use Plastics Reduction Strategy and Bylaw – Calgary
A Calgary city committee gave early approval to the city’s plan to tackle single-use plastics, but some councilors say the plan doesn’t go far enough and others say it needs more work.
According to a 2019 city study, about 3.5 million plastic shopping bags, 6.4 million plastic utensils, 2.4 million take-out containers and 2.4 million disposable cups are thrown away in household and commercial waste every week.
In response, city officials proposed a bylaw that would require local businesses to charge a minimum fee of $0.15 for paper bags and $1.00 for reusable bags. The minimum fee would increase to $0.25 per paper shopping bag and $2.00 per new reusable shopping bag one year after the regulations are implemented.
The regulations also include a requirement that paper shopping bags contain at least 40% recycled content.
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Items like straws, utensils, pre-packaged condiments and napkins would also only be provided upon customer request under the proposed settlement.
The city administration said the plan is not an additional municipal ban on single-use plastic shopping bags because the federal government has its own ban.
District 2 Com. Jennifer Wyness voted against the plan after raising several concerns, such as the lack of compostable bags as part of the plan.
Wyness told reporters the plan was « redundant » due to the federal ban on single-use plastic bags.
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She also cited city data showing that 87% of Calgarians said they always bring their own shopping bags to the grocery store.
« So why then should we increase the price or set a minimum price when Calgarians already recognize that they have changed their behavior? » Wyness said after the meeting.
“Those who can least afford it are going to be charged. I don’t agree with that and it doesn’t even help the climate,” she added.
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The city administration said it was exploring alternative options for low-income Calgarians.
Meanwhile, supporters of the plan believe it needs to go further to address the city’s climate concerns.
Christina Seidel, executive director of the Recycling Council of Alberta, said she was struck by a description that the plan « meets Calgarians where they are today. »
« I think that’s not good enough, » Seidel told Global News. « We have to push Calgarians beyond where they are today, and I think even Calgarians would say they should be pushed a bit more. »
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Seidel said she would like to see more oversight and enforcement included in the proposed regulations, but added that the plan complements the federal ban by discouraging the use of single-use bags.
The city administration said it would not recommend a charge on single-use cups as it works to identify impacts on local businesses while reducing waste in the landfill.
John MacInnes, the founder of Earthware, spoke in favor of the plan at Tuesday’s public hearing.
Earthware is a local company that started last year, providing reusable plastic take-out containers to restaurants and other partners in an effort to reduce waste.
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« It comes to your house, you rinse it, we pick it up, or you can drop it off in community bins, where we take it and sanitize it, clean it and then restock it to restaurants and our partners, » McInnes said.
According to McInnes, the company had 50 partners in its first year and just washed its 10,000th container, with the goal of increasing to 10,000 containers per day.
“Anything any city or municipality can do to further reduce the amount of stuff that ends up in landfills is always good,” McInnes told Global News. “Of course, we fully support the program.
Ward 11 County Kourtney Penner, who voted in favor of the plan, said the city needs to review its single-use plastics for internal use in an effort to walk down the path of sustainability.
“We have sometimes opted for convenience over durability. We have Keurig machines, we have plastic utensils in some of our locations if lunches or meals are delivered,” Penner said. « We need to work on our own strategies to reduce waste by really being a leader and showing how it can be done at a business level. »
The committee voted 6-2 to approve the plan, with Ward 10 Coun. André Chabot votes against Wyness.
The proposed plan and bylaw will need to be approved by council before a public hearing is held at a council meeting in 2023.
The city administration said the bylaw would be implemented in 2024, if approved by council.
Penner said the schedule would give local businesses time to adjust.
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