It is estimated that Canadians use 2.86 billion plastic bags every year. The average Canadian uses between 200-300 bags per year. If tied together the grand total of 2.86 billion plastic bags would stretch around the Earth’s equator 22 times. Marine mammals and seabirds can not survive our plastic pollution. Each year, up to one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals die from ingestion of, or entanglement in, these plastic.
2017 – Surfrider Pacific Rim goals include:
- Education on single use plastics
- Surfrider Pacific Rim reusable bag – Would you like to be a sponsor?
- Community Survey on plastic bag use – enter link here?
- Film night with panel board experts on plastic bags
- Plastic Bag free events
- Recycling and reusable bag options at the Co-op
ARE PLASTIC BAGS RECYCLABLE IN BLUE BINS?
No, plastic bags are only recycled at certain locations.
Most soft plastics are sorted and shipped to Vancouver waste dealers, before being crated and sold to recyclers in China, all of which requires additional energy, resources and pollution to process.
Surfrider estimates that while bags cost only 2-5 cents to manufacture, they impose over 17 cents each in clean-up costs, which are borne by residents through higher taxes and infrastructure management costs.
IF I RECYCLE MY PLASTIC BAGS, ISN’T THAT BETTER THAN PUTTING THEM IN THE GARBAGE?
After years of recycling programs, recycling rates of single-use plastics are dangerously low. In some many cities interested in ban-the-bag campaigns, recycling rates are still less than 5 percent, which clearly illuminates that more incentives are required to reduce waste volumes. Recycling rates and statistics are not available for the Tofino.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A REUSABLE BAG?
All local grocers and retail outlets should carry paper bags, in lieu of plastics, and some offer cardboard boxes. It is important that paper bags are derived from 100% post consumer recycled paper and also are properly recycled after use.
WHAT ABOUT DEGRADABLE, BIODEGRADABLE, COMPOSTABLE AND OXY-DEGRADABLE BAGS? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE AND SHOULD WE JUST USE THOSE INSTEAD?
Biodegradable and compostable bags are not meant to be carryout (shopping) bags. They’re specifically designed as liners for kitchen food waste containers.
Some plastic film or composite-material bags on the market claim to be “biodegradable” but are just “greenwashing.” Some merchants mistakenly use or sell these. We should only use bags with the following characteristics:
- Compostable plastic bags labeled with a certification logo
- Paper bags labeled with 40% post-consumer recycled content
- Reusable checkout bags designed for at least 125 uses and are washable
I USE MY PLASTIC BAGS MORE THEN ONCE, SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
While some people may use their single-use plastic bags more than once, the average Canadian uses up to 400 bags a year. That adds up to 2.56 billion bags! Single-use plastic bag manufactures created the plastic bag to be used only once and then thrown away. Therefore, the amount of plastic waste globally is growing at an exponential rate and is creating devastating impacts particularly in the marine environment. There is just too much plastic in the world to support an industry that is creating major negative impacts to waterways. There are alternatives and better solutions.
WHAT DO I USE FOR GARBAGE BAGS?
Most household garbage input can be reduced to little more than dryer lint and dental floss. Tofino now has full recycling collection and most everything can be sorted and taken to the depot. Organics, which often make up the bulk of household trash can be composted. Unfortunately we still do not have a community composting option and due to wildlife we are unlikely ever to have curb side compost pickup like larger cities do. We understand that not everyone in town is composting due to wildlife concerns and this can make your garbage reduction tricky. As a possible solution, perhaps you could chat with a friend or neighbour that has a solid bear proof compost bin and see if they would be willing to share space. If you are reading this and you have a solid well functioning compost perhaps you could extend the offer to your neighbour.
Turning your household into a well lean mean garbage reduction/recycling machine isn’t hard it just takes a bit of thought and practice. Once streamlined your household garbage output can be reduced to a single bin a month. Which can be picked up by curbside garbage collection just like that! And if a plastic bag must be used, then one post consumer recycled, compostable/biodegradable bag is better than shiny new regular one.
WHAT ABOUT BAGS FOR VEGETABLES AND MEAT IN STORES AND OTHER PLASTIC BAGS LIKE NEWSPAPER AND DRY-CLEANING BAGS? ARE THEY ALSO BANNED?
No. Bags used by customers inside stores to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy or small hardware items are still allowed, as are bags to wrap frozen foods, ice cream, meat or fish, flowers and other items where dampness is a problem. Newspaper and dry-cleaning bags are still OK, too, and of course you can still purchase packages of garbage bags, yard waste bags and bags for pet waste.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER SINGLE-USE PLASTIC IN OUR LIVES?
You’re right to be concerned about all the other single-use plastics and the waste that they generate. We have a shared responsibility to reduce, re-use, and finally – recycle those products so that they are re-processed properly.
We will have to work together in the future to find better ways to reduce plastic waste and improve all our packaging strategies with their full life-cycle in mind!
WOULD CHARGING MORE MONEY FOR PLASTIC BAGS BE A BETTER INCENTIVE FOR PEOPLE TO REDUCE SINGLE-USE PLASTICS?
Ireland has had significant success with their bag-tax and charging remains an option to discourage single-use plastic bags. Our campaign is choosing to focus on restricting the use of these bags as our method for driving change, which aligns closely with Surfrider international’s vision for ocean plastic stewardship.
WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE THE BAN TAKE EFFECT?
It is expected for this process to take a bit of time. There will be community consultation and the creation of an implementation strategy before the bylaw is drafted.
 (2014). “Do Plastic Bag Bans work?”. Scientific American. 14 Oct. Available online at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-plastic-bag-bans-work/
 Surfrider Rise Above plastics http://www.surfrider.org
 Howe, A. (2014). “The proliferation of the plastic bag…ban”. Surfrider Foundation. Available online at: http://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/the-proliferation-of-the-plastic-bagban
 City of Monterey, California. http://monterey.org/en-us/Environmental-Programs/Zero-Waste/Choose-To-Reuse-Single-Use-Carry-Out-Bags