Dawson moves to ban single use bags

Dawson City council moved closer to banning the practice of issuing free plastic shopping bags at a recent council sitting.

Dawson City council moved closer to banning the practice of issuing free plastic shopping bags at a recent council sitting.

“I thought maybe we should follow the lead that other communities have set and phase out plastic bags and their use,” said mayor John Steins.

The Northern Manitoba town of Leaf Rapids made a big splash in April by becoming the first Canadian community to ban the use of plastic grocery bags.

The community joined several villages in Alaska, and even San Francisco in an anti-plastics environmental movement that is steadily gaining converts

Effective April 2, the new Leaf Rapids bylaw stated that retailers would not be permitted to sell or give away plastic shopping bags that are intended for single use.

Any person breaking the law would be fined $1,000 a day for every day they offend.

Some of the exempt plastics products include storage bags for dairy products, fruits, vegetables or nuts, ice, candy and meats.

“We’re not banning plastic bags across the board, obviously people will have to just pay for their kitchen-catcher bags,” said Steins.

It’s the point-of-sale grab bags that towns and cities across North American and Europe are banning, in order to ease the load on landfills while also prettying the surrounding environment.

“Really what spurred it was a trip out to our landfill where all these plastic bags are snared up in the trees and they’re all over the place,” said Steins.

“It looks pretty ugly. Not just the appearance but also the fact that they don’t break down.”

The Leaf Rapids ban replaced a bylaw, under which a hefty levy had been put on single-use plastic bags — an option also under consideration in Dawson City.

The entire Republic of Ireland opted in 2002 for a levy equivalent to 25 cents on every plastic shopping bag given out from grocery stores.

The disincentive led to a 95 per cent reduction in the use and abuse of the convenient sacks.

Steins says that council seems sympathetic to the idea of either a levy or an outright ban.

“The retailers don’t really like to buy those plastics bags anyway. They have to buy them by the caseload and that takes up needed space,” he said.

All four councillors in attendance voted in favour of working with the Conservation Klondike Society to develop a plan to reduce plastic bag use.

Chris Clarke presented the idea at council’s June 5th meeting. She explained how the petroleum-based products don’t biodegrade and impact the environment.

Clarke also advised council that the Conservation Klondike Society is interested in an outright ban on the bags, and would be willing to support a temporary levy as step closer to that goal.

Steins, who got some advice on the issue during a May visit to Whitehorse’s plastic-bag-free 3 Beans grocery, is pleased that citizens stepped forward to steer Dawson council forward.

“I’ve never liked those plastic bags anyway. That’s just my own thing,” he said.

“They just seem like an annoyance.”

Contact Rhiannon Coppin at rcoppin@yukon-news.com