Whitehorse has decided against banning single-use bags and will instead strive to curb plastics incrementally by charging a fee on every single-use bag taken out of a store.
The proposal also includes measures to educate businesses about alternatives to plastic bags and to increase the availability of compostable and biodegradable bags in the city.
Council will decide on the plan next Monday.
The “eco-charge” will slowly decrease the use of plastic bags while programs such as city-wide composting will eliminate secondary plastic bag use, says councillor Jan Stick.
Money from the bag fee should be used to beef up litter collection, according to the proposal.
While the city is passing the law, the Municipal Act prohibits it from collecting income from anything except property taxes, says Stick.
The city should ask the territorial government to include plastic bags in the Designated Materials Regulation, which currently enforces a surcharge on new tires, says the plan.
Details about how the money can be directed towards litter pickup have not been worked out yet, says Stick. The tire surcharge is currently enforced, collected and used by the territory.
City council will discuss managing the bag fee with counterparts from the Association of Yukon Communities, she adds.
The surcharge will not increase the city’s enforcement requirements, according to the plan.
There is also no decision yet on how much the charge will be.
“In Ireland, it’s 12 cents. I’ve heard about some places where it’s 20 cents a bag that you would pay,” says Stick. “That would make people think, you know.”
“Then if you’re still bound and determined to have plastic bags in your garbage then I guess you could use your reusable bags and go into the groceries and buy four for the next month, or something,” she adds.
Secondary usage of plastic bags, as in the case of small garbage cans, made Stick think twice about a ban.
“People have grown accustomed to using them in the garbage,” says Stick. “If you take that away, that’s when people go toward the kitchen catcher. They are heavier and more durable than your regular grocery bag.”
Programs like the composting pilot-program in Porter Creek can reduce these secondary usages, says Stick. The project consists of 500 households each using one cart for compost and one for regular garbage.
When the project is expanded to include all of Whitehorse in April or May 2009, the separation of compostable material and garbage will mean people won’t need to use plastic bags when refuse is placed in the carts, says Stick.
“You can dump it in the cart and the compost. You shouldn’t even need a garbage bag for food stuff anymore,” says Stick.
The proposal also opens the possibility of extending the ban to single-use cups and containers and Styrofoam.
“I think that would certainly be a possibility,” says Stick.
Toronto is currently considering whether to ban or tax the use of plastic bags, Styrofoam containers and paper coffee cups.
A change in commitment is needed to end plastic bag usage in Whitehorse, says Stick.
“Everybody has travel mugs, and usually about a dozen of them in the cupboard somewhere. It’s so easy to just not bother to do those things, to take them with you.”