Civic committee gets ball rolling on single-use plastic ban
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This article was published 02/12/2019 (1205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Plastic stir sticks and bottled sport drinks could soon be benched at Winnipeg civic facilities.
The Riel community committee has asked the public service to draft a report detailing how the City of Winnipeg might ban single-use plastic products, including drink containers and straws, from all its facilities.
“I believe the city ought to take leadership in providing a response to single-use plastics, especially at city-run facilities,” Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) said, introducing the motion Monday. “We’re trying to increase our diversion rates, and trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that goes into our landfill.”
A ban on such products at city facilities could mean the end to bottled water and drinks at municipal recreation centres; the elimination of plastic cups and cutlery at canteens within city-run arenas and community centres; and a change in the way the City of Winnipeg plays host to events within the community.
“We need to seek alternatives to these harmful single-use plastics, and provide alternatives at these venues,” Chambers said.
Which products will be potentially banned, and in what context, will form the basis of the study. The associated costs of providing alternatives, such as filtered water systems or compostable straws and stir sticks, are also being considered, Chambers said.
“To a large degree, we do use these items out of a matter of convenience — and I think it’s time to be inconvenient for the sake of the planet and working towards better diversion out of our landfills,” he said.
The municipal directive is also a response to both the federal and provincial governments committing to reducing — and banning — single-use plastic products in some scenarios.
Manitoba is currently in consultation with the private sector on ways to eliminate plastic bag usage; four municipalities (The Pas, Snow Lake, Leaf Rapids and Thompson) have already prohibited the sale and distribution of such items.
The federal government has promised to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021, and is planning to introduce new standards for manufacturers of consumer plastic products to handle the waste they generate.
Green Action Centre executive director Tracy Hucul said the time is right for the City of Winnipeg to be taking a lead on the issue. For years, the centre has promoted strategies for waste reduction and sustainable choices within individual households, Hucul said, and now, policy makers are beginning to get in on the action.
“I think that government does need to take a more enhanced role, a more significant role, and I think the government is starting to respond and look these things in more depth because of some of the pressure the public has been bringing to light,” Hucul said.
The City of Vancouver last week approved a set of bylaws banning and restricting some single-use items — including foam cups and take-out containers, and plastic and compostable plastic shopping bags — to be rolled out over the next 16 months.
While the City of Winnipeg is just starting a conversation on single-use plastics, and limiting the scope to its own facilities, Hucul said it’s still a good start.
“I think an indication from city hall that this is something that the city is taking seriously is important for Winnipeggers to see,” she said.
Hucul also cautioned any policies banning single-use plastics would have to take into account how alternatives are disposed, including compostables.
“We don’t have a city-wide compost program at this point in time, so what we don’t want to see is those compostable products in a recycling bin, and then they just end up in the landfill.”
The standing policy committee on water and waste, riverbank management, and the environment must approve the request for a study, which would be completed in 90 days.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.