Iqaluit passes motion to develop ban on plastic bags

“It’s always been an issue on people’s minds”

Iqaluit city council passed a motion on Tuesday night to develop a ban on single-use plastic bags in the city. Coun. Kyle Sheppard, who introduced the motion, said he hopes the bylaw will be put into effect by January 2020. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Plastic bags in Nunavut’s capital may soon be a thing of the past.

Iqaluit city council passed a motion on Tuesday night to write a bylaw banning the use of plastic bags in the city’s retail stores.

Coun. Kyle Sheppard tabled the motion, which passed with unanimous support from council.

Sheppard says the motion is something Iqaluit residents have expressed interest in for a long time, but the recent community cleanup day inspired him to bring it to council.

“Anybody involved in the community cleanup can comment on the number of plastic bags found throughout town, lying in our creeks. It’s always been an issue on people’s minds,” he said.

This is not the first time such a bylaw has been proposed by the city.

In 2008, Iqaluit city council drafted a similar bylaw to eliminate single-use plastic bags.

Under that bylaw, retailers would not have been allowed to hand out plastic bags, but could offer paper bags or reusable bags for a fee. Plastic bags could still be used to package meat, fish and produce. Retailers who violated the ban were to be fined $100.

Although the 2008 bylaw received support from city council at the time, it was held up in third reading and was never put in place.

“We’re trying to rectify and revive that process from 11 years ago,” Sheppard said.

Beyond the plastic in the city’s streets, Sheppard said harvesters have told him about finding plastics inside the stomachs of animals hunted in the area.

“Anytime you’re boating now, you can see plastic bags floating under the water. I think banning them now would be a good step in preventing some of that waste going forward.”

Sheppard said he realizes a ban on plastic bags also raises the question: Why not ban all plastic in Iqaluit?

“In the bigger scheme of things, all plastics are an issue. But locally, we don’t have a straw problem. We have a plastic bag problem.”

There have been other efforts to curb Iqaluit’s plastic use. In 2011, Northmart started charging customers 25 cents per plastic bag, a policy that still applies today.

Northmart saw a 60 per cent reduction in plastic bags handed out in its Nunavut and Nunavik stores after introducing the charge. The Northwest Company, which owns Northmart, donated the money collected from bag sales to programs such as school breakfasts, community cleanups and scholarships.

Arctic Ventures, Iqaluit’s other major grocery store, started a 10-cent-a-bag charge in 2008 and immediately saw a drop of 30 to 40 per cent in the number of plastic bags it handed out to customers.

Both Northmart and Ventures handed out free reusable bags to customers before moving to charging them for single-use plastic bags, to encourage people to step away from plastic.

Baffin Canners and the Baffin Gas bar use corn-based biodegradable bags.

The federal government also announced its plans earlier this year to ban single-use plastics, including bags, as early as 2021.

Sheppard is hopeful the bylaw will pass this time around.

“I’m very hopeful. I know I’ve heard from a lot of residents before and after the motion was made. Nothing but support so far.”

City administration will write the bylaw in consultation with council members and is expected to bring it back for first reading in the next couple of months, Sheppard said.

Sheppard said he hopes the bylaw, if it passes, will be in effect by January 2020.

Debate on a bylaw happens after second reading, where council can then make changes or recommendations, Sheppard said.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Rankin Resident on

    Take note Rankin Inlet!

    • Posted by Em Hofstede on

      I think this is FANTASTIC! And, I hope we do this in Naujaat! I am tired of seeing plastic bags frozen into the top of the ice on Repulse Bay! Where will they end up? In the belly of a whale perhaps. Time to get back to what we used before plastic…paper! We have plenty of cardboard available, we have used newspaper….and hey….people can bring their own bags! Wow! What a concept! Go Iqaluit! Set an example for us all!

  2. Posted by Thomassie Mangiok on

    We have two good options; either we use provide bio-degradable options that nourish the soil or we just encourage people to use personal items such as washable long lasting fabric bags and metal utensils and cups.

    Good going for passing this.

  3. Posted by Steve L on

    Commendable but banning something without thinking through an alternative is unwise. For example water bottles. In Saskatchewan we recycle them for cash. Several First Nations have serious water problems and drinking water is brought in by individual bottles. Our municipality keeps a pallet or two of water bottles for at risk residents in case of water quality issues. The Salvation Army and Red Cross have semi loads of water bottles pre-positioned around the US for use in disaster response. We don’t have a viable alternative, lots of opinions, but nothing that will work.
    In Iqaluit’s situation it seems to be a political expedient (knee-jerk) reaction without alternatives. The alternatives are reusable bags (most people are too lazy, that wont work) or biodegradable (which cost more, and you know who pays that price) end up in the dump anyway. Unfortunately what goes North usually stays North.
    Our local waste management company cubes the unsalable single use plastic and parks them at our regional landfill in case there is a future demand. It would seem that a couple of rusted and leaking derelict vehicles are worse than a years worth of North Store bags

    • Posted by Looking ahead on

      This is nothing but a counsel of despair. There’s no time nor no need for cynicism and negativity.

    • Posted by James Rondockett on

      @ Steve L – Re-read the title of the article. Pay attention and take your time if necessary. They passed a motion to DEVELOP a ban on plastic bags. There was no knee-jerk reaction. Developing a plan involves looking at options, solutions and alternatives….then potentially implementing that plan which has not taken place. Your comment on the other hand was a knee-jerk response!

  4. Posted by Time for other options on

    I remember seeing a motion from the Baffin Region Inuit Association, BRIA, in 1993, about banning plastic bags because of concerns about plastic bags in the environment. There are alternatives, like the boxes that products come in, or other multi-use bags. We can do this.

  5. Posted by Carbon Tax Payer on

    There is already amazing waste management infrastructures right here in Nunavut. With the mining agreement set in place all mines have to hold themselves accountable to a level of cleanliness. Most of them go above and beyond what is expected.
    Perhaps we should model off of their waste management systems.

  6. Posted by Filthy Buzzard on

    About time…all communities in the north next please.

  7. Posted by Anozie Kingsley on

    To me it’s a good stand if followed with time. On the other Hand…it will only invite cost increment on stationary papers.
    Also… This idea can be abused by local Authorities.

  8. Posted by Jim MacDonald on

    It was a little over 40 years ago, when the Hudson Bay Company introduced simple, thin plastic bags into the Rankin Inlet stores, to happy cheers.

    Gone were the days struggling to hold groceries in paper bags in the rain or a blizzard.

    Over the decades the thin plastic shopping bag became the multi-use bag in the home, shop, schools, homework bag, penny sales, sick garbage, camping, boot liner, fish and meat holder, a happy birthday present wrap bag…and on and on. Hundreds of uses.

    Paper bags use more resources to make and are heavier, thus cost more to transport and take up to 4 times the space to ship and store. Good luck reusing a paper bag 4 to 6 times to make it economical. While a heavier plastic/fiber reusable bag needs 100 to 150 reuses.

    Sure, Nanny states can ban shopping bags.  If increased waste-management costs are not a concern transporting more paper bag waste bulk. And heavier reusable bags, thicker plastic bags (zip lock baggies) including garbage bags used to replace the thin shopping bags.

    It’s ironic, Iqaluit may increase heavy plastic usage.  Because of the increasing paper bag and plastic garbage bulk, this will produce more plastic-wrapped garbage bales at the new Iqaluit dump if shopping ban passes.  
    Marching back in time?

    • Posted by iWonder on

      Good thing paper bags aren’t the only option, Jim. Who pays you to write all this anti-environmental stuff you do anyway. You are as predictable and consistent as clock work on these types of articles.

  9. Posted by Independent on

    Just another way for the government/big business to make money and say they care about the environment as if there aren’t enough taxes as it is! Wake up people! Paper bags means cutting down trees! Just like some of the foolish areas in the United States did. Must Canada do everything the U.S. does? Classic example follow the U.S. when they changed daylight savings time to start in March and end in November which was a dumb move. The real answer to the problem is to enforce existing recycling laws and change to biodegradable bags without charging the consumer anything.

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