Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper

Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper

Column: Mayor urges citizens to take a stand on plastic

City ponders how to deal with single-use plastic bags.

Let’s talk trash. Let’s talk recycling. Let’s talk responsible purchase of and disposal of items – all items.

I like how the residents of our fair city take responsibility and let me know when they feel something is good or not good.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when a gentleman came and met me at city hall, having completed many hours of research in regards to single use plastic bags, water bottles and straws.

His research showed that millions and millions of tons of single use plastic bags and bottles are used each year. Most of these single use plastic items end up in our lakes, rivers, ditches and our landfills and also surprisingly, tons of these plastic items end up in our oceans.

Indeed, Harry and I witnessed this while in Mexico. Early each morning we would walk two kilometres along a beautiful pristine beach.

One morning after an intense storm during the night, we were shocked by what we saw before us. On this same normally pristine beach, the ocean waves had deposited piles of single-use plastic grocery bags and water bottles everywhere.

Resort crews were out working, raking and removing the debris and by the time we walked back to our resort an hour later, the beach was once again pristine.

Most of those at the resort never saw the mess. And we wondered, where did this all come from? Does this happen often?

We have since learned this same thing occurs on beaches all over the world. Yes, even B.C.’s coastal beaches can be littered this same type of debris after a storm.

Grocery stores in most parts of Canada have been charging extra for plastic bags for years, while at the same time making reusable bags available at checkout. But the reality is that despite these measures, many of us continue to use plastic bags, due to a combination of convenience and forgetfulness (oh darn, left my reusable bag at home again).

In April, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna launched a public consultation on plastic garbage to help pinpoint ways for the country to eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter.

“It’s not just cleaning up after the fact: it’s actually being thoughtful about how we reduce, how we recycle, how we compost,” she said at the time.

This issue was also discussed by delegates at the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention where delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour of a resolution to urge the federal government to create a marine litter mitigation strategy.

The responsibility to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost begins by being thoughtful about what we purchase and how we carry it home.

A shout out to our Roots and Blues Festival for leading the way as they go green this year and plan to reduce their use of plastic items and reduce their carbon footprint by 50 per cent. Let’s follow their lead.