Saanich will formally look into the impact of plastic bags following a presentation from two middle school students, who urged council toreduce and eventually eliminate plastic bags.
Charlotte Brady and Anastasia Castro of Glenlyon Norfolk School made this appeal during a presentation to council that included a longlist of statistics detailing the prevalence of plastic bags and their effects on all forms of life, including humans.
“In the words of professor Rolf Halden, plastics are good for one minute and contaminate for 10,000 years,” said Brady. “We here at theVictoria Ban the Bag could not agree more.”
Plastic bags outnumber oceanic animals six to one, said Brady. “That is six plastic bags for every single fish in the oceans,” she said.
Plastic’s prevalence has accordingly proven deadly for countless animals. “One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killedannually by plastic in all oceans,” she said.
Brady added that plastic bags are becoming more “prevalent at an alarming rate,” citing a 2013 Earth Policy Institute study that says“about two million plastic bags are used every minute around the world” or around 20.1 billion bags in a week.
“To put that into perspective, there are about seven billion humans on the world,” she said.
The prevalence of plastic bags has also impacted human health, said Brady, as scientists have linked the central chemical compound inthe manufacturing of plastic bags, Bisphenol A – or BPA – with pregnancy problems, prostrate problems and behaviour problems inchildren.
“The other ingredients in plastic bags aren’t too good either,” she said, adding research has linked them to cancer, birth defects anddevelopmental problems.
As for the economics of plastic bags, research estimates that countries around the world can spend up to $11 billion just to clean upplastic bags, said Brady.
In light of these effects, a number of jurisdictions around the world, including California, have banned plastic bags. A number of Canadianmunicipalities including Victoria are exploring various efforts to reduce or ban bags.
Castro acknowledged that banning bags outright could be difficult. She instead proposed a phase out centred around the promotion ofalternatives such as reusable bags and educating the public about alternatives.
Saanich schools could help create reusable bags for use among students, said Castro. She also proposed the introduction of a mandatoryusage charge that would escalate from a moderate rate to discourage the use of plastic bags.
Castro said her group has spoken to various organizations including Victoria city council and local businesses to raise awareness aboutthis “global” issue.
Coun. Susan Brice praised the students’ practical approach. “It is all about education and getting people to change their habits,“ she said.
Coun. Dean Murdock said the presentation impressed him and he expressed hope that it will help encourage common policies across theCapital Region.
Mayor Richard Atwell agreed. “We always here the phrase: Think globally, act locally,” he said. “And that is exactly what you are doing.”
The presentation comes as efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, plastic bags are picking up.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities last year passed a motion asking the province to ban the use of the bags at the manufacture and retail levels.