Fed up with the number of plastic straws, bags and single-use packaging, a Terrace resident is asking city council to consider banning the material altogether.
Leticia Kistamas gave a presentation to council on Jan. 28 accompanied by her three children and five bags full of discarded plastics. Setting them next to the podium, she asked the city to consider a bylaw to ban single-use plastic products, not immediately, but by phasing them out over the long-term.
Legislation banning single-use plastic products like plastic bags, straws and utensils have been implemented by other Canadian cities including Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, and St. John, New Brunswick.
“I’m asking the city to make the right decision and implement strategies where we can reduce plastic waste, tackle plastic pollution and save our waters and our future,” Kistamas says. “We need to be leaders in this innovation and not wait for things to get worse.”
Kistamas began by detailing statistics to illustrate the issue of single-use plastics as not only a global issue, but a local issue as well. Her presentation included the difficulties with recycling locally, along with photos taken by her family of plastic straws, bags, and packaging littering the banks of the Skeena River.
Their family walks have turned into plastic gathering expeditions, picking up discarded materials in locations around the city, including the back of Mills Memorial Hospital and the Sande Overpass.
“My daughter had actually raised my awareness to how much plastic was out there so then I started looking into it,” Kistamas says.
As she started to research and collect statistics, her concerns about the impact that single-use plastics had on the environment grew.
Throughout her presentation, she noted several findings, including the Government of Canada’s estimation that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, and a report from Greenpeace that estimated Canadians generate approximately 3.24 million tonnes of plastic every year.
She argues municipalities can help lead the way to curb single-use plastic supply.
“We can’t alone depend on recycling, also companies have to take steps to reduce packaging, governments and politicians have to start putting in bylaws to ban plastic bags.”
Because the City of Terrace does not take single-use plastics curbside, she says her household looks like a “recycling facility” until she takes the products to the Do Your Part Recycling Depot in Thornhill.
“I’d like to see research to see how many people in Terrace actually takes their bags back,” she says.
In conversations with Do Your Part Recycling, Kistamas says she was told the plastic waste gets driven to Vancouver where it waits for a buyer overseas. This material used to be sold to China, the biggest importer, before changes in regulations in 2018 blocked Canadian materials from the country’s landfills.
So with nowhere to go, Canada has looked to other Asian markets like Malaysia, but Kistamas argues those countries aren’t able to properly maintain the landfills to prevent materials from ending up in the oceans. She showed images from Greenpeace of the mountains of plastic packaging dumped near palm plantations and near waterways south of Malaysia’s capital.
“We can’t alone depend on recycling, also companies have to make steps businesses to reduce packaging, governments and politicians have to start putting in bylaws to ban plastic bags.”
She says she has spoken with and gained support from several local businesses, including Save-on-Foods, Safeway, Misty River Books, New Age Insight, and All-Star shoes. Save-on-Foods charge consumers five cents per plastic bag as an environmental initiative to encourage the purchase of reusable bags, Safeway does not.
“This issue is very important to me as I am a mother of three young children and I want to make sure we secure a sustainable for future for them,” Kistamas details in her report.
Council received the report for information and will further the request to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and its Public Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) after voicing concerns about the complications and feasibility of implementing a city-wide ban.
“My real concern is that our waste management facility is a regional facility…[RDKS] are better suited, I think, to conduct the research required to as to how this issue should be dealt with, and they are in a better position to roll it out,” says Coun. James Cordeiro, adding that the RDKS is already aware of the problem with single-use plastics.
“The alternative to [changing supply] is to try and educate people and influence demand on these products. ultimately if consumers stop taking plastic bags, if consumers start refusing plastic cutlery, stores won’t carry them…. people can start doing this themselves right away,” he said.