Nelson has declared October Plastic Free Month.
Why should a small city tackle such a global issue that some would say is not within its mandate?
Councillor Rik Logtenberg says he has not yet heard anyone ask this question.
“The way change is going to happen in this new decade is distributed,” he told the Star. “Local governments will be working collaboratively and distributing the risk and sharing the load.
“Victoria, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Saanich, Kingston are all waiting to see how this month goes in Nelson. Victoria is talking about doing it in March. Better for one council to go first and report back and then we roll it out nationally.”
The initiative follows council’s decision in July to go for an educational approach to single-use plastic rather than outright ban.
The city and the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce will collaborate on six actions.
1. Write a letter to businesses, signed by the mayor and the chamber president, notifying them that October is Plastics Free Month and explaining the concept.
The letter will provide general guidance on some of the best ways to reduce single-use plastics consumption. The chamber will distribute the letter to its members.
2. Identify four local businesses that have already taken substantial actions towards reducing single-use plastics. Each week in October one of these businesses and their actions will be highlighted through the city’s Facebook page.
3. Promote and inform residents of Plastics Free Month by working with a graphic designer to come up with an attractive visual to present the initiative. Promotional material will appear on the city website and Facebook page, and in the Nelson Star.
4. Promote a pilot pledge program in which city employees will be challenged to fill out and submit a pledge form committing to changing one of their own habits with regard to personal plastic use in October. The pledges will be viewable by other city employees.There will be a prize draw. If this is successful, the city will consider a similar initiative open to the public in future iterations of Plastics Free Month.
Logtenberg says this is similar to council’s recent offer to buy electric bikes for its staff to be paid off through payroll deductions, as one entry point into relieving vehicle congestion, freeing up parking spaces, and reducing greenhouse gas production.
Try it out yourself, as a council, before expecting the public to do it, he said.
“That is the way we should be doing things. There is a certain moral consistency to doing it that way.”
5. Conduct a City Hall pilot plastic audit in which the city’s administration, development services and IT departments undergo a plastic use audit during October to help determine what types of plastic waste these departments are generating, to help these departments to further reduce their plastic usage. If this is successful, other departments would be asked to undergo similar audits later in 2019 or in 2020.
6. City councillors will collect all the plastic they use for the month, pile it up, and display it for the public.
“This will challenge us as elected people to walk the talk,” Logtenberg said. “It will also help us figure out how this will work, what are the challenges here. For example, are we prevented from shopping at certain stores because of this? How do we make this work for the whole city?”
According to the website Waste Reduction Week in Canada, a coalition of non-profit and provincial government groups, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced worldwide since the 1950s and only nine per cent has been recycled. It also says three billion plastic bags are used in Canada each year and only 11 per cent are recycled. One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.