Sunday, September 25, 2011

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)...One Year On

In September 2010, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo brought in a by-law banning the use of single-use plastic bags at most retail stores here. I believe there are a few exceptions involved but since I don't do a whole lot of shopping, I'm not sure on the exemptions. Anyhow, I originally intended to comment on all this last year but I thought I'd give it time. September 1 marked the one-year anniversary of this by-law so before too much time goes by and I find myself commenting at the two-year-anniversary mark, I better give it a go here.

Initially, I wasn't too sure how the by-law would be received. We've become such a "throw away" society. Plastic bag usage sure is convenient, though I found they have a nasty habit of accumulating (usually in the cupboard under the sink or some other such cupboard I rarely opened back in the day) and creating headaches. I recall my aunt taking reusable bags with her while grocery shopping in Zurich when I went to visit her back in 2007. Clearly, they were light-years ahead of us there, and when I raised the subject with her she told me that it was just a part of everyday routine there.

(I temporarily interrupt this post to add that this by-law was the brainchild of a local high school student and I had the pleasure of meeting this intelligent and well-spoken young man last year while I was doing a little substitute teaching at his school.)

So initially, yes, when the bag ban came into effect, it took an effort to make it part of my routine. I know for myself there were many times I'd run into a store to pick up a few items and leave with two very full armfuls of items. I know I wasn't the only Fort McMurrayite who did this. It needs to be said that you can purchase reusable bags at major retailers like Safeway, Sobeys and Walmart, but not so easily at smaller places. Anyhow, it didn't take many days of aching arms before I began to make a habit of taking bag along in case I needed to grab something. Of course Lisa has more foresight than I normally do and we typically we keep our bags on a convenient shelf in the closet within arms reach, or more usually, just keep them in the back of the van, before shopping trip.

I'm not sure how popular the ban is here in the city generally as I have to admit I haven't been doing a good job with keeping up with the local media. I have heard some grumbling in some quarters that people eventually wind up with 20-30 bags in their house when they forget to take shopping bags with the them on a regular basis and have to re-purchase new ones. Last month, the municipality hired a firm to do a review of the ban. I just haven't heard anything back on that yet.

Fellow blogger, Theresa, next to whom my writing skills pale and is more tuned in to local events than I have been the past few weeks, has commented on this issue a few times here and here and I suspect the subject will be re-visited there as perhaps it will be on other local blogs. At present, the ban doesn't bother me and I do find some of the objections rather silly. Fort McMurray often gets such negative press that what gets lost in all the noise is the fact that our city was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to enact a by-law like this. And I think it's a positive step.

No comments: