Vancouver mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester raises possibility of banning single-use plastic bags

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Single-use plastic bags have been banned in Victoria.

      They're also going to be prohibited in stores in Taiwan starting next year.

      And they're also being or have been phased out in Rwanda, China, Macedonia, and Kenya, as well as in local areas in North America, Australia, and Myanmar.

      Even Albania has severely restricted their use.

      But in Vancouver, which aspires to be the greenest city in the world, the Vision Vancouver–controlled council has not yet banned single-use plastic bags in its single-use item reduction strategy.

      Instead, council voted earlier this year to ask staff to consult business licence owners before proceeding with any restrictions.

      Coun. Andrea Reimer amended the staff recommendation at the policy and strategic priorities committee meeting on May 16, 2018, to call for a "full-distribution ban on single-use plastic bags and single-use cups" if the city was not consistently meeting annual reduction targets by 2021.

      This amendment was opposed by NPA councillors George Affleck, Hector Bremner, and Melissa De Genova.

      Now, a green-minded independent mayoral candidate, Shauna Sylvester, is looking at the possibility of expanding the city's ban beyond plastic straws and foam cups and containers more quickly than that.

      She recently sent out a tweet asking Green councillor Adriane Carr how quickly the city could prohibit single-use plastic bags.

      Carr responded that she tried but couldn't muster enough votes when she tried to bring this forward. 

      That's because there was no support among her peers, according to Carr.

      "A new council could add plastic bags to ban on single-use items," Carr noted.

      In fact, Reimer's amendment specifically called for a ban by 2021.

      Sea turtles suffer gruesome deaths

      Accumulating plastic in the oceans is having a devastating impact on marine creatures. That's because plastic breaks down into tinier and tinier components.

      The microplastics release chemicals that enter the food chain in smaller fish and other animals. 

      They, in turn, are eaten by larger marine animals—and these toxins accumulate in their bodies.

      According to the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, there are 100 million tons of plastic in the oceans, and another 60 billion pounds of plastic will be produced around the world this year.

      Sea turtles' downward-facing spines in their throats make it extremely difficult for them to regurgitate plastic that they consume in the oceans.
      DavidCarbo/iStock/Getty Images

      "Many turtles, that have been killed by consuming debris, had plastic bags or fishing line in their stomachs, some as small as half of a fingernail. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to the effects of consuming marine debris due to their bodies’ own structure," the Sea Turtle Conservancy points out. "They have downward facing spines in their throats which prevent the possibility of regurgitation.

      "The plastics get trapped in their stomach, which prevents them from properly swallowing food. Also, many sea turtle rehabilitation facilities commonly deal with 'bubble butts,' turtles that float as a result of trapped gas caused by harmful decomposition of marine debris inside a turtle’s body. The gases cause the turtle to float, which leads to starvation or makes them an easy target for predators."

      The organization's list of solutions includes supporting local, regional, and nationwide bans on plastic grocery bags.

      This article was corrected from an earlier version, which stated that the council did not decide to ban single-use plastic bags. In fact, this ban could occur by 2021 as a result of Reimer's amendment to the staff recommendation.