Banning plastic bags sparked heated debate
The three political parties in the Yukon legislature argued last Wednesday over the government’s new ban on single-use plastics.
The subject was raised during a ministerial statement by the Minister of Roads and Public Works, Nils Clarke.
“Waste is an issue here on the territory and in the world. Disposal of waste is expensive, requires significant effort and, when not done properly, has a negative impact on our environment, ”said Clarke.
“We know that single-use shopping bags are just one aspect of the waste problem we face today, but reducing their use and disposal is an important step we can take to tackle waste. in our territory, ”added Clarke.
“As of January 1, 2022, single-use shopping bags will be banned in the Yukon. Reusable bags, along with other reusable products, are already in most of our homes. We all just need to use them more.
“It’s about taking new habits. That’s why we’re giving Yukoners three months to get into the habit of bringing their own bags with them every day.
“We are also giving retailers enough time to adjust to these new changes and to run out of their stock of single-use bags. We have a series of signs, posters and stickers that retailers can get from Environment Department staff to help people remember BYOB – bring your own bags, ”the minister said.
Clarke continued her statement by stating that “the simple fact is plastic waste is a problem, whether it’s the bags strewn in the trees around our waste management facilities or the microplastics in our waterways. .
“Paper bags aren’t that great either. While they don’t create the same stress on waste management systems, as a biodegradable option, paper bags are resource-intensive to manufacture.
“Their production contributes to the release of chemical by-products, pollution and emissions, and their transport to the Yukon from southern producers only adds to their overall emissions.
“The ban on paper shopping bags will come into effect one year later, on January 1, 2023.
“Either way, the message is the same: we can all do better. We can all think about reducing our dependence on single-use products that quickly end up in the trash.
“The single-use bag ban is just one step we are taking towards a broader ban on single-use plastics in the Yukon.
It also aligns with the federal government’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, and aligns with what the government has heard from Yukoners, Clarke said.
“Since 2019, we have been discussing this issue with Yukoners, First Nations, businesses and organizations. Our initial commitment was to charge a fee for single-use bags.
“What we heard was that people generally preferred a ban to a surcharge, and last year our government made a commitment to ban single-use bags.”
Wade Istchenko of the Yukon Party said, “On this issue today is another example of the Government of Yukon dropping consultation. Much like the issue of (waste) transfer stations, there was a lack of consultation with the ban on single-use bags.
“In this case, instead of the locals who are outraged at the government’s lack of responses, it is the business owners who literally find themselves holding the bag, wondering what is going on,” Istchenko said.
“The decree banning single-use bags was confusing to anyone reading it. The OIC signed on September 29 amending the Environmental Law gave two potential dates for the ban to come into effect. One was October 1, 2021; the second date indicated, according to the Order in Council, had the new rules taking effect on the day the Order in Council is filed with the Registrar of Regulations.
“A press release issued in mid-Friday afternoon on the potential first day of the new rules indicated that the date of entry into force of the plastic bag ban was January 1, 2022,” the MP added. by Kluane.
“Paper bags would be banned a year later. This is another example of the government forgetting to communicate until it has presented a policy. “
The Yukon Party did a quick check on a few of the stores that use single-use bags, Istchenko said.
“They had no idea when and how the ban took effect. They did not know what their obligations would be or what they would be expected to do.
Istchenko also asked what companies are supposed to do with any excess stock after the New Year.
“So after January 1, if a business has personalized single-use plastic bags, what does they do with them? ” He asked.
“They can’t return them to the supplier and they are breaking the law if they use them, so companies will be forced to throw away single-use bags without them having a single use.”
Emily Tredger of the NDP also weighed in on the issue.
“We have known for a long time that reducing our use of plastic is a priority for Yukoners,” she said.
“Over the past few years, we’ve heard over and over again that Yukoners are leading the way and waiting for the government to catch up.
“Mayo, Dawson and Carmacks had already banned single-use plastic, but when the Yukon NDP brought forward a motion to do the same, the government told us that a ban was not possible,” Tredger recalls.
“Later we were told it was possible, but it would take time. In November 2019, my colleague Takhini-Kopper King MP (Kate White) tabled another motion, this time urging the government to meet its original schedule of a ban by spring 2020. They said that they thought they could do. do it by fall 2020. Both deadlines have passed, ”said Tredger.
“When we were negotiating (the April Minority Government Support Agreement) with the Liberals, we made this one of our priorities along with dental care, ambitious climate change targets and a minimum wage increase. .
“We got a commitment to ban single-use plastic bags in the Yukon. When the political will is there, it’s amazing what can happen, ”said MPP for Whitehorse Center.
“Now our current supply of plastic bags is not going to disappear overnight, so we also need to make sure that the plastics we still depend on can be recycled. It means recycled by everyone, not just Yukoners living in Whitehorse.
“Unfortunately, this is not the direction the Liberal government appears to be going,” Tredger added.
“Meanwhile, in communities across the Yukon, transfer stations are closed, so Yukoners living in those places don’t even have a safe place to take their garbage, let alone recycle it.
She asked what kind of standard of living is offered to citizens “when they don’t even have room for their garbage?
“How can we say that we are taking action to protect our environment when we are not even supporting our citizens with basic waste management?
“So, yes, I’m proud the Yukon NDP got the single-use plastic bag ban, but I hope every step towards meaningful climate action and environmental protection will not be such. fighting, ”Tredger added.
Yukoners have made it clear that they want action taken to support rural and urban Yukoners in waste management, environmental protection and climate protection, she said.
“Yukoners are clear: we have shown that when there is political will, it can happen. It is time for our government to listen.
Clarke retaliated by saying, “Alleging that we introduced the ban secretly without telling the companies is not responsible, and nothing could be further from the truth. This is not the leadership that Yukoners expect from our territory.
“We have engaged extensively with Yukoners and businesses on this issue,” added Clarke.
In 2019, he recalled, the government considered introducing a levy on single-use shopping bags and sought comments.
“What we’ve heard from industry, retailers and Yukoners is that they would prefer a simple bag ban,” Clarke said.
“In response to this, last year our government made a commitment to ban single-use bags. We returned to talk to Yukoners and stakeholders earlier this year.
“We made it clear that the bag ban is ongoing and that we really need details on the deployment. We asked how we should do it – timeline and exemptions – because it was no longer about ‘ifs’, but ‘how’ and ‘how soon’.
“We wanted to make sure we had a good understanding of how we were going to implement this in a way that would work for our industry partners. We all have a role to play in waste management on our territory and we must work together.