Plastic shopping bags are progressively being banned around the world. In Britain, the plastic bag is symbolically viewed as actions of a “throw away society.” Even China, who is consistently fingered as one of the world’s two worst polluters, has placed a ban on them. But there are no such widespread bans in either Canada or the US, although many American cities have taken the step to eliminate their usage.
Seattle had banned plastic bags in December in order to cut down on the detrimental effects they have on the environment due to the use of petroleum as well as to protect the marine life around Puget Sound. Portland had eliminated plastic bag usage earlier in October. Canadians who are traveling south of the border should no longer expect that they will have a plastic bag with their store purchases but instead should keep this in mind when traveling to the US and either bring their own bags – preferably canvas – along with them.
Vancouver City Councilor Tim Stevenson claims that he had pushed hard for bans on plastic bags four years ago when the city and Metro Vancouver Regional District had contemplated getting rid of them. To Stevenson’s disappointment, there wasn’t enough support to do so as Allen Langdon, the vice-president of sustainability for the Retail Council of Canada, stated consumers still demand plastic bags at the counters, even though retailers are taking the steps to educate customers by offering canvas bags as an alternative. There are no definitive planned bans on plastics bags in Canada, although in 2008 there was a pledge made by industry groups of BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, as well as the Retail Council of Canada to reduce the amount of plastic bags distributed by 50% by 2013.
Unlike cities in the US, Canadian cities cannot impose a city-wide ban without the support of the provincial government, and shoppers who are still demanding plastic bags at the grocery checkout counters. Stevenson has stated that about 1.3-1.4 billion plastic bags are annually used in BC. He is counting on a promise that Metro Vancouver will be able to recycle all plastic bags by 2015. Langdon has stated that there are plenty of opportunities to recycle them at numerous outlets which include London Drugs, Safeway, Save On Foods, and Walmart. An upcoming progress report is scheduled to be due out this January.