After some discussion during their regular council meeting on March 10, town council voted unanimously to support a motion to encourage citizens of Ponoka to voluntarily start reducing their use of single-use plastic bags.
The Utilities and Environmental Committee asked the town to create a bylaw that would require retail stores in Ponoka to stop supplying single use plastic bags to customers for grocery carry, but the town ultimately felt that was too heavy-handed.
The committee was informed of council’s decision to table the committee’s recommendation at a meeting on Feb. 20, 2020 and the matter came back before council on March 10.
It was noted during committee discussions that most people use plastic bags more than once and that provincial governments are expected to take action on waste and recycling issues.
It was also felt that municipalities should be taking stewardship and encouraging consumers to reduce their use of plastics.
In the end, the committee recommended the town encourage citizens to reduce their use of single use plastics on their own.
Coun. Teri Underhill asked who is leading similar initiatives in other communities, questioning whether it was municipalities or grocery stores.
CAO Albert Flootman answered he would have to look into how it was initiated in Wetaskiwin.
Coun. Clayton Nelson, who has a background in recycling, stated biodegradable bags only break down in certain conditions.
“I don’t think the science is there,” said Nelson.
“I don’t want to mandate it, I just want people to think about it.”
Mayor Rick Bonnett noted that a lot of people do reuse their plastic bags, so they aren’t necessarily single-use.
“This isn’t a municipal issue. This is a provincial or a federal issue and at this point in time, we do support the non-use of single-use plastic bags, but again, us banning them out of Ponoka in the stores … does not institute the end of plastic bag use in all the community,” said Bonnett.
He added that at this time, it was “just too muddy in the waters.”
“We can really only ask our business owners to do so, and we’re putting our business owners in possibly a jeopardized position compared to others,” said Bonnett.
“That was why the recommendation was, we agree with it, but we’re not willing to take a hard step to recommend council to ban (plastic bags).”