Plan to cut plastic-bag use shows B.C. is still Canada's testing ground
Today's surprise announcement by Canada's retail industry that they are rolling out a "comprehensive plan" to cut plastic-bag use in B.C. shows that British Columbia is still the Canadian testing ground for the culture shift that is going to take us, eventually, to Zero Waste.
Canada's four major grocery and drug store retail associations have committed to cut the use of carry-out bags in this province by 50 percent within the next five years.
Skeptics will scoff that this is a voluntary initiative with no teeth, but I think there is a lot to learn from this move by the industry.
The grocers did not do what they would have done in Ontario––chip in a few crumbs of funding and expect the municipal governments to haul away the bags for recycling.
Rather, their plan is to shift the management of bags from local governments to the stores that give them out.
Their plan proposes more than just token recycling bins. They are using the tools of the retail trade––incentives, recycling services, and alternatives––to woo consumers into helping them meet the goal.
Most importantly, it includes a commitment to monitor bag use and report out their progress. This is where most voluntary producer programs fail the grade. No one knows what a bad job the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's "Charge up to Recycle" program is doing because no one is measuring or reporting out. (All they tell you is how many millions of batteries they've collected, not how many tens of millions they have let go to landfills; no targets, no accountability.)
My sense is that we are about to become "Greenbag Nation" like Australia.
(And I anticipate that, like the wonderful Boomerang Alliance Down Under, we Zero Wasters can be counted on to hold the retailers' toes to the fire if they don't meet their goal––and then move up to a more challenging one.)
Helen Spiegelman is a Vancouver-based environmentalist and blog coordinator. Read more at Zero Waste.