Vernon, British Columbia Enviro Bag Initiative
Status: Initiated in Spring 2008
Source File: http://www.vernon.ca/environment/index.html
In celebration of Earth Day 2008, the City of Vernon is launching the Enviro Bag Initiative. This is a year long program which aims to reduce the use of plastic bags by local shoppers. Plastic bags contribute to energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste issues. The energy used to manufacture just 8.7 plastic bags is equivalent to driving a car 1 km. Across the country, Canadians consume 9 - 15 billion plastic bags annually, the equivalent of between 132 to 220 thousand individual trips across Canada along Highway 1.
The Enviro-Bag initiative will have several phases, intended to culminate during the 2009 Earth Day celebration. The first is to challenge local major retailers to promote the sale and use of reusable shopping bags. Many of the major retailers in Vernon currently have their own reusable shopping bags and are promoting their own corporate initiatives to decrease plastic bag use. This challenge will build upon these existing corporate initiatives.
The following retailers in Vernon have already joined the City in raising awareness of the need to reduce plastic bag use. As additional local retailers join us in this initiative, their information will be included on the City webpage.
Existing programs in place by local grocery retailers:
Safeway Canada has had a plastic bag recycling program available to their customers for over 20 years and has recently introduced a reusable cloth bag for purchase at a cost of $0.99. For more information on Safeway Canada’s environmental programs:
Save On Foods has implemented a recycling program which includes the opportunity for shoppers to bring their plastic bags for recycling in all of their stores as part of an in-store recycling program. Save On Foods has introduced cloth bags for purchase every day for $1.49. On Earth Day 2008, Save On Foods in Vernon will be accepting plastic bags in trade for a new reusable cloth bag. On April 22, any customer who brings into their store 1-1000 plastic bags to be recycled will receive a new reusable bag. For more information on Save On Foods sustainability programs visit: http://www.saveonfoods.com/aboutus/sustainability.htm.
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Plastic Bag Use Reduction Programs
Communities and governments around the world are beginning to address the impact that plastic bags have on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and landfill demand. Some communities and governments have chosen to ban the use and distribution of plastic bags, while others have instead chosen to introduce a user fee on all plastic bags used in retail stores throughout their cities.
Okanagan cities have included plastic bags as part of the recycled materials waste stream. Kelowna, Summerland and Penticton each has a curb side recycling program which accepts plastic bags. None of these cities are currently considering the introduction of a ban on plastic bags or a user fee incentive program.
Across Canada, several cities are considering the introduction of plastic bag user fees or outright bans. The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO), in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and City of Sault Ste. Marie have jointly launched a pilot project to reduce plastic bag waste in landfills. This program is a collaboration with local retailers which was launched on Earth Day 2007.
The program is based on voluntary actions by the consumer through the introduction of an incentive program run through in store customer loyalty programs which reward customers for using cloth bags, and a municipal reusable bag give away to kick off the initiative.
Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, has introduced a ban on plastic bag use through a progressive set of initiatives, in collaboration with their local retailers. The Leaf Rapids program began with the introduction of a user fee of $0.20 per bag and progressed to the purchase by the municipality of reusable cloth bags for distribution of 5 bags to each household. It recently culminated in the creation of a bylaw which restricts the distribution of single use and plastic bags in the city. This is the first municipality in Canada to fully undertake this type of program.
In the United States, San Francisco and Oakland have become the first North American cities to introduce a full ban on single use and plastic bags. There have been mixed reactions to the ban from plastic bag producers and retailers, but many are beginning to realize the benefits of a user fee or tax incentive program and support from businesses is increasing as familiarity with these programs increases.
Globally, many countries have implemented plastic bag bans and incentive programs, and the list is growing. Countries with plastic bag user fee programs and full bans include India, Taiwan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Australia by the end of 2008.
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