ST. ANTHONY, NL. – St. Anthony council is hoping the provincial government will implement a provincewide ban on plastic shopping bags.
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) passed a resolution in November to lobby the provincial government to place a provincewide ban on one-use plastic shopping bags.
St. Anthony Mayor Desmond McDonald says it seems likely the province wants to leave the decision on plastic bags to councils.
However, during the St. Anthony town council meeting on Nov. 27, McDonald and council supported MNL’s resolution.
“It shouldn’t be downloaded onto the municipalities from provincial government – it should be either every community does it, or no one does it,” McDonald told the Northern Pen.
He points out that many communities share the same landfill sites. If one community issues a ban and another doesn’t, the bags will still be present in the environment.
“There would still be loads of plastic bags going out into the environment,” he said.
McDonald knows the idea may get some pushback from residents, but he feels the province should be environmentally conscious.
“We got to look at the future and what damage plastic is doing to the environment,” he said. “This is just one step in a greater need for conservation and usage of more environmentally friendly materials.”
St. Anthony Grenfell Co-op manager Boyd Manuel hopes that even if it were not a provincial government decision, council would still go ahead with a ban of its own.
He believes any ban on plastic bags could make some small difference. And if St. Anthony issued a ban, he believes other neighbouring towns would see the benefits and follow their example.
“If St. Anthony would start, I’m willing to bet that you would see the others follow,” Manuel told the Northern Pen.
When he was store manager at the Northwest Company in Nain in 2009, Manuel helped facilitate the process of banning plastic bags in that town.
They approached council on the matter and Manuel says the council was all for it.
And all the businesses came on side.
He says Nain ended up one of the first municipalities in the province to issue a plastic bag ban.
From his experience, he believes it’s a good idea for councils to take some time to publicize it and give residents time to prepare for the change.
Manuel says the ban was announced in July, but the policy wasn’t enacted until November.
At first they got some pushback – people wondered what they would use in their washroom garbage bins for instance – but Manuel says it was nothing serious.
Once enacted, in place of plastic bags the town gave each resident two free reusable bags, as well as two each from a number of businesses.
Every household started up with six or eight bags and they could purchase more at the store if they needed them.
Manuel says in Nain, if customers forgot to bring their reusable bags to the store, they could purchase a paper bag for 10 cents.
Proceeds from the sales of paper bags would then be pooled and donated to the town’s recreation centre.
“It went over really well, and they’re still banned up there yet – you cannot get any plastic bags there,” said Manuel.
He believes it would go over well in St. Anthony given how environmentally aware people have become.
He adds once they no longer see plastic bags blowing around from the landfill site, support would likely grow.
Both McDonald and Manuel also point out that businesses would save money from a plastic bag ban, so they believe business support would be strong as well.
Manuel estimated plastic bags cost about $40-50 per case.