In Africa, several countries have banned polyethylene shopping bags.
In Kenya, the penalty for manufacturing, importing, distributing or even carrying a poly shopping bag is extreme: $38,000 or four years in prison. This draconian measure was absolutely necessary. Many African countries are now up to their knickers in plastics waste. Kenya’s abattoirs routinely find an average of 20 bags in the stomachs of slaughtered cattle.
Victoria council has also voted a bylaw banning poly shopping bags, with a heavy fine of $10,000 for non-compliance. Whilst Kenya’s ban was an extreme necessity, Victoria’s ban is an exercise in bylaw bullying to suit a single small interest group and some councillors’ political ambitions. City councils are supposed to help their retailers, not hobble them and this nasty, far reaching edict will cause havoc with myriad small retailers and their customers.
According to the CRD’s legal guidelines, this bylaw would not withstand the first court challenge, but city council ignored it.
And therein lies the reason it even happened. I have labelled it Fashionable Environmental Urban Mythology. And just like Trump, it is alive and well.
I am a serious and savvy environmentalist, but I long ago began to question the ‘gospel’ some enviro groups spout. Coun. Ben Isitt recently wrote profuse thanks to the Surfrider Foundation for pretty much causing this bylaw to be enacted, even though the information they supplied was largely fiction. I have lost respect for the Surfrider Foundation over this hoax.
Contrary to what they say, poly shopping bags are not a pollution issue on Vancouver Island. We are not littering our landscapes, lakes, rivers and streams with poly bags. They are not on our streets nor in our storm drain systems. Bags are not windblown onto our ocean beaches. Think prevailing winds. There is plastics debris there, but we do not go to the ocean to discard plastic bags. C’mon, we are a clean society.
That debris is plastic flotsam from Asia brought here on the Japan Current. It’s been coming to North American shores for at least six decades. The fact Surfrider used this junk from Asian countries with abysmal environmental habits to bolster the idea that we are doing it, and that poly shopping bags are a serious part of the problem, is outrageous and repellent.
Polyethylene is among the nicest plastics to recycle and it pays its way. One of the most misleading monikers of the bags is ‘single use.’ They are reusable, most useful and when recycled, become something else.
Victoria council has empowered a small group of amateur environmentalists and made law at only their behest. It threatens the proper operation of thousands of small retailers and customers. For what?
Robert Matthews is a retired self-described plastics artificer who worked with plastics for more than 50 years and now consults on commercial pollution solutions. He lives on the Saanich Peninsula .