Carolyne Austin

Lake Cowichan council ponders plastic bag ban consequences

No motions have been made, only discussion around the idea

On the heels of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities AGM in September, Lake Cowichan mayor and council spent some time at a recent committee meeting talking about the possible phasing out of plastic bags within the community.

While the topic was up for discussion more so than a debate and/or decision, councillors were generally in agreement that it seems like the right thing to do, but acknowledged just how difficult it would be to go all in.

“I use the cloth bags and the paper bags and I’m happy to do so,” said councillor Carolyne Austin. “I really think it’s going to be hard to phase out plastic when you need plastic for all sorts of other things.” Austin gave the example of the extra plastic associated with buying chicken and other meat.

Austin also noted one common household practice that would need to be altered should single-use plastic shopping bags vanish.

“I do think it’s going to force people to be buying them more for garbage anyway, the heavier-duty bags, I won’t mention a company name but the ones that don’t break down very much,” she said. “Right now I know people do use the grocery bags for garbage, I know I certainly did when we were camping and stuff, so I think we need to encourage people to maybe use the organic bags more for their garbage and things like that.”

While Austin agreed with using less plastic in general, “I think it’s going to be a tough thing because everything in our world is made from plastic and those little old ladies who wear those plastic hats when it rains, we’re never going to phase those out,” she said, while noting she’ll never wear one of those hats.

After council had a chuckle, Tim McGonigle continued the conversation, noting that should they consider a ban, they’d need to tread very lightly in the reasons they cite for the ban, so that they stayed within their authority.

“I know there is some interest in the provincial government moving this forward in the banning provincially of single use plastic bags, I think we have to be very careful if we choose this route,” he said. “Victoria failed in a legal bid because they were using an environmental entity and we don’t have that authority to go down that road. I would encourage people to utilize reusable bags as Councillor Austin said. Most of us do that.”

McGonigle said it would be easier for council if the ban came from the province.

Within the community, momentum has already started to swing away from single-use plastic bags anyway, noted councillor Lorna Vomacka. She said she was going through the drawers in her home where she used to keep the plastic bags and she couldn’t find any.

“Everybody seems to have gone to paper bags — willingly in Lake Cowichan. It’s amazing that there’s not one to be found.”

Mayor Bob Day said there’s at least one large retailer in the community that has stopped offering them and is charging for paper bags. He also noted the liquor store doesn’t offer plastic anymore either.

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Lake CowichanPlastic Bag Ban