Friday, January 11, 2008

New Poll: Paper or Plastic

I've added a new poll to the blog in response to a question I received by email:

"Bill, I thought you might enjoy this link. Essentially China is banning free plastic bags commencing June 1, 2008. I know San Francisco has also done this. More cities will follow suit. Wouldn't it be something if Grande Prairie did this as well, beating Edmonton and Calgary to the punch?? There is no real downside.

Sorry for bugging you about a trivial issue, but I thought it was a
great idea."

My reply...

"Thanks for the note and don't every worry about sending anything along! Any ideas are appreciated, even the seemingly little ones.

I actually posted about this on my blog quite a while ago.

I like the idea but to be honest I'm just not sure about pushing it forward here. What do you think, would most people be in favour? The only downside I see is that it can be viewed as council adding costs to businesses. Kind of like if I told you that your office couldn't use BIC pens anymore. I know, I know that's not a great analogy but you know what I mean.

What do you think?"

The two comments I received on the previous post were both positive about banning these single use bags, and now this email. So, I'm asking you all out there - what do you think, is this something the city of GP should pursue?

Let me know what you think by voting and leaving comments.

The poll will close at 12:00am February 1st.


Anonymous said...

My vote was for "No" we shouldnt outlaw them. I understand its a huge waste and recycling issue, however in my household we always recycle our bags either by reusing them or by taking them to the Aquatera bins.

Anonymous said...

I have reusable shopping bags that cost me a dollar a piece and they are fantastic...they hold more groceries and are easier to pack. I am so used to them that I get mad when I forget to bring them with me. It's just a matter of changing your habits.

Anonymous said...

I thinkwe should. The resuable kind are only 1 dollar apice. We gave them out to people for Christmas this year. It takes some thought to sue them and it makes a huge difference to the enviroment. THe less demand the less are produced. No matter if you recycle they still are bad for the enviroment, whether in the pollution created to produce them or the pollution produced to recycle them. GO GREEN!!! We can be known for more than the oil and gas stuff! Lets be proactive and leader in the country.

Anonymous said...

we recycle too but I would be in favour of a bag-ban, that way there would simply be no issue of who recycles them and who doesn't

Anonymous said...

I think the focus should be to ban 'free' single use plastic bags while encouraging the use of reusable green bags, like those used at some of the stores already. This is something I'd support. I think there is more than one step to banning plastic bags and this would act as an intermediate step with full ban as the ultimate goal.

Wade Sask said...

What would be the stipulations on bagging your baught items in a plastic bag? 'Less than three and it's not free?' What are the cost differences in a company ordering 5000 plastic bags and 5000 *hopefully* recycled paper bags? And going off topic a little Bill, sorry, how about having mandatory recycled plastics bins on construction sites? Half of the garbage the Rotary Club picks up is that blown from the wind from a construcion site.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you're so interested in the issue of plastic bags, and I would like to suggest that regardless of the feedback you get on this issue, it is one you should pursue on the basis of principle, and I feel the very same about curb-side recycling. I grew up in a town of 1500 people that managed a curb-side recycling program as early as 1989.

When it comes to necessary public policy, cost should be inconsequential and a matter of administration, not public opinion. We don't devolve garbage collection because people complain about fees. We do it better, give the public alternatives to disposal (such as cloth bags, curbside recycling and compost pickup), and we do a better job of educating the public on the necessity of the service.

We COULD cut their taxes and give out burning barrels, but that would be quite a step backwards then, wouldn't it.. As soon as you start talking about taxes, people's mindset is skewed and perceived self-interest replaces any balanced view of community responsibility.

Now, I realize you didn't say anything about taxes when you brought up the plastic bag issue, and you seem to be pretty enthusiastic about it. My point is that unfortunately people don't always know what is best for them, and you can't depend on your electorate for this type of direction, when on the contrary, they should be expecting it from you. Push a strong platform of conservation and progressive policy. If China's talking about banning plastic bags, as a nation, I think you're safe to advocate this piece of policy a little more aggressively, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

If the proposition is "paper or plastic", I would probably have to say plastic. Plastic bags are lighter, they are waterproof and they stretch (somewhat). Paper bags on the other hand, are prone to tearing, weakens when wet and are harsh on the environment as virgin forests are cut down to produce the paper. (Yes, some may say that you businesses can purchase paper bags made with post-consumer recycled paper but guess what? The paper bags that come with significant amounts of post-consumer recycled paper are way more expensive for businesses and therefore, the chances of them using those paper bags are nil.) For more information on plastic vs. paper, go to:

The alternatives are a bit more promising however. Reusable (actually, all bags are reusable so I wouldn't be repetitive in saying "reusable" from now on) cotton/hemp fibers or starch-based bags are nice, but we can't expect everyone to bring reusable bags with them when they shop. This is especially true for out-of-town visitors who don't know the local bylaws and would be forced to spend small fortunes on reusable bags in order to shop in Grande Prairie. These bags cost at least $1 each.

In closing, I would rather see more efforts made to divert waste by reducing the barriers to recycling by implementing the number of neighbourhood depots, promoting reuse and perhaps implementing a reward system for recycling (an example would be, when you recycle a Kg of paper at an Aquatera bin, it gives you "x" credit off of your solid waste portion of your Aquatera bill.)

Anonymous said...

Banning almost anything is a terrible idea. I forgive you for bringing it up, lets pretend this didn't happen and never speak of it again.

Firstly, China is a Communist country where Human Rights involve being run over by a tank.They can ban breathing very easily if they want too.Comparing to a so far democratic city like Grande Prairie to China is not very appealing to me.

Secondly, every plastic bag has human face behind.Because someone decided to not recycle or simply to lazy to put it in the garbage.

Thirdly, paper is worse than plastic, environmentally speaking.
I would echo most of kai's comments.

Lastly, I hope we are not in competition with other Cities on who can ban what faster. Honestly, can we not try to compete with other Cities by making it attractive for businessess to actually move here. Instead of making it more difficult by banning stuff.Say by say reducing taxes.

Although we could ban council members from bringing up silly ideas.
Kidding on the last one.heh
Take care Bill.


Anonymous said...

It's pretty difficult to say anything more to the point, and logically, than KyleH. Do some research on the subject of the banning of plastic bags, and why, and it would be pretty easy to see why it's being done. I'm not sure why we would want to try to decide if we should proceed on this no-brainer by having a public opinion poll.

Anonymous said...

Yeah goodbye plastic (and paper)bags woo!! Who needs 'em? I'm all for the ban. I'm sure even the lazy people out there will get used to bringing their own bags to the store - if not it's just a buck a bag and they can throw those out after every use if it makes them feel better.

Anonymous said...

I voted in favor of the ban. Regarding Cyril's comment...yes it is easier to push public policies forward in a "communist state", but could you imagine the world if we all recycled, drove hybrid vehicles etc. I wish we didn't need to be forced to do it, we should, in good conscience have the foresight to make the world a better place, one less bag in the landfill at a time...You go Bill!

Anonymous said...

I voted in favor of the ban. Regarding Cyril's comment...yes it is easier to push public policies forward in a "communist state", but could you imagine the world if we all recycled, drove hybrid vehicles etc. I wish we didn't need to be forced to do it, we should, in good conscience have the foresight to make the world a better place, one less bag in the landfill at a time...You go Bill!

Kuri said...

More and more businesses are selling reuseable bags. (I'm constantly surprised to see how many large, chain stores are selling them.) I think that as more and more businesses become adapted to this, that they'll infact push for plastic bag bans because they'll want to be rewarded for the public good already created.

Anonymous said...

I vote YES to no more plastic, reducing is the only way to go, even though I do re-use the plastic bags at home its just more waste for our never ending garbage problem, at least this way it is a step in reducing our footprint for future generations.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is a purely selfish response.... I love the disposable bags! They are great for picking up my dogs' "droppings". I would love for more people to be dog responsible and use them to pick up after their dogs!.... but that is another issue!

Haven't they started making them from corn based plastics anyway? Are they then biodegradable?

I have long been a supporter of curbside recycling... focus on that instead!

Anonymous said...

There are bags out there other than plastic that are biodegradeable. I believe homesteader health uses them. I myself recycle all the bags I get from the various stores. Get the blue box program in action and get more people on board with recycling these types of things.

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out to readers that biodegradable bags may not be biodegradable in the Grande Prairie environment due to the way our landfill is operated. Depending on the composition of the biodegradable bag, it may not decompose at out because the material may need oxygen or exposure to UV. Trash at the landfill is covered with a daily cover of organic materials and recovered sludge from the wastewater treatment plant. Therefore, some if not most biodegradable bags will end up like plastic bags. Static and buried underground. Some studies from the UK have found that "biodegradable bags" from years or even decades back are still found in landfills around the world.


Having biodegradable bags nothing to address the consumption part of this problem which lies at the heart of this issue. Both biodegradable and regular disposable plastic bags require a similar amount of energy, natural resources and costs to produce.

As well, the mixing of biodegradable bags in recycling systems for conventional plastic bags creates a sorting nightmare and can render entire batches of recyclable plastic useless.

Another point against the biodegradable bags is that bag littering could easily increase as people start to believe that biodegradable bags are less harmful to the environment and will disappear quickly.

Lastly, water, soil, and crop contamination could result from the use of compost with chemical residues from decompose biodegradable bags.

Anonymous said...

I voted yes to banning plastic only to read others thoughts.
Kai S. has given (no pun intended) me some food for thought who know that one little question could bring up some many more complicated problems. I hope that there is a easy solution then the nightmare off indepth sorting and labeling that is suggested in the last notation

Anonymous said...

My vote is Yes! I recyle everything I can...and the less that is out there for packaging the less often I would have to go to the recycling bins. I am not sure why I don't use reuseable bags, just never really thought about using them...But if we take the plastic ones out of circulation who would know the difference?? If everyone else is doing it, we would all adjust. And if it is better for the environment, my health and the cost of living (city clean up), I am definately willing to support it!

Anonymous said...

Last week, there was a documentary on this topic on CBC: The Battle of the Bag. If I hadn't heard about this discussion, I'm not sure I would have watched it. But it was interesting.

It illustrates some of the history behind the plastic bag, reasons why it's being looked at more seriously as a problem, and what some people are trying to do about it or with it. Not necessarily a simple issue.

However, I think that a ban is not the way to go. Instead, giving people information and alternatives as part of an overall awareness program is a better option. This allows people and businesses to make their own choices in figuring out how to integrate sustainable practices into their day-to-day lives and operations. Unless there's already popular support, a ban requires enforcement to be effective, and I don't think that we'd want "bag police" like they have in India.

As another commenter mentioned, it's just a matter of changing your habits. Instead of reusable shopping bags, I use rubbermaid containers that stack together and fit nicely in my trunk.. or just use my backpack when I walk to the store.

But sometimes I don't have those things with me, and the bags I do get come in handy: as dog poop or garbage bags that I'd need to buy anyway (but try to minimize); reusing as lunch bags or for carrying shoes; to make beautiful films as they blow around in the wind ;)

Anonymous said...

The polls are closed so I can't vote but I would have voted YES. I understand all of the annoyances of not having bags on you when you shop or out of towners and what not but like many have said before me, people will learn to change. Plus, the media attention would be enough to let everyone, including out of towners, know about the new bylaw.

I don't think I could say it any better than Kyleh did in their last paragraph. I say go for it.


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