District of North Vancouver council backs off calling for ban on plastic bags

The District of North Vancouver council has unanimously approved a motion asking Environment Minister Barry Penner to set targets to reduce the use of plastics, including single-use disposable shopping bags, in B.C.

The original motion that was contained in a report from Mayor Richard Walton called  upon council to support Metro Vancouver's recommendation that  the minister "ban" single-use shopping bags in B.C.

However, during the debate, some councillors objected to a ban. Coun. Alan Nixon said he would prefer measures that reward good behaviour on the part of retailers.

Coun. Mike Little said he was sympathetic to arguments in favour of banning plastic bags, but he didn't think they applied in this region.

As examples, he said that plastic bags in Metro Vancouver are disposed inland, so they're not put in the water, where they have a negative impact on marine life. He also said that plastic bags don't blow around in the open air, unlike in other countries he has travelled to, such as Tanzania and Uganda.

"Banning the bags, as far as I'm concerned, is a complete overreaction," Little said.

Coun. Lisa Muri, on the other hand, said the purpose of a ban is to create a level playing field among all provinces. She noted that in Europe, these bans are not uncommon.  

"I don't know why we're so afraid of banning a plastic bag," she said.

Coun. Janice Harris, who didn't seek reelection on November 15, proposed  the amendment that watered down the earlier recommendation for a ban. Instead, she called  for targets.  

Harris  acknowledged that whales and other marine life have "stomachs full of plastic" because of all the ocean dumping (which was the topic of a Georgia Straight cover story last summer).

"But at some point, we have to address what's out there in the oceans," Harris said.