Single-use plastics could be banned

Sam Odrowski

A town councillor is trying to get Fort Frances to do a small part in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Coun. Douglas Judson submitted a proposed bylaw to council that will ban single-use plastics, such as checkout bags, drinking straws, styrofoam food containers and other single-use products in town.

“This effort is less about making rules or levying fines and more about curbing our behaviour,” he said to the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce during their general meeting yesterday.

“Our reliance on single-use products, like plastic bags, and the havoc their production and decomposition reaps on the environment are a sizeable element of the climate crisis.”

The bylaw will be on the agenda at council’s meeting on Monday and if approved, won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021, which allows businesses sufficient time to adapt their practices and exhaust existing inventories.

A single-use plastics ban would mean consumers need to purchase reusable bags when shopping or businesses will have to offer paper bags or boxes for the packaging of goods.

Garbage bags and similar products would continue to be available, the bylaw is only concerned with certain plastic products distributed at the point of sale to transport goods or hold prepared food.

Coun. Judson said it’s estimated one to five trillion plastic bags are used and discarded around the world and 10,000 tonnes of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes each year.

He added that a town of 2,500 households could send a million plastic bags to landfills each year, and globally, a truckload of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute.

“Plastic pollution is simply out of control,” Coun. Judson charged.

“Bags, in particular, are ubiquitous in roadside litter and waterways, and are mistaken for food by animals, contributing to wider ecosystem destruction,” he added.

“A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, versus a few months for their paper alternatives.”

Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to how its managed as waste.

Coun. Judson said the local Business Improvement Association, local youth, and various stakeholders support moving away from plastics towards a more forest products based economy.

“While Fort Frances, on its own, will not tip the global scales one way or the other, leadership is about taking action and showing how something is done,” he remarked.

“At the same time, I readily acknowledge that this isn’t enough. We should do more – and we must if we want to show leadership on sustainability.”

The bylaw is just a nudge in the right direction, to challenge the community to step up and reflect on how it might be contributing to climate change, according to Coun. Judson.

“Fort Frances is a small drop in the bucket of environmental responsibility, but change requires leadership at all levels of government and in all sizes of community and business enterprise,” he explained.

“Our society can simply no longer afford to pass on environmental costs to its future generations.”