2006 Fowler Election Platform – Plastic Bags

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If elected to Council, as one who believes in conscientious consumerism, I will work for the adoption of a “PlasTax.” [Note that I’m not making the kind of unqualified promise that politicians typically do, since no individual member of Council can guarantee the passage of anything.]

Every year, a trillion plastic bags are produced worldwide, and Canadians use 55 million of them per week.

The problem is, what happens to them next? Even if bags make it to a landfill, they can stay there for years. The average plastic bag can take hundreds of years to degrade.

One eco-friendly solution is to use canvas bags. However, that requires some forethought.

There are also bags which gets rid of themselves. These look like plastic, but they’re actually cornstarch and are compostible and biodegradable.

Recycling plastic bags that aren’t biodegradeable is certainly better than sending them to the landfill, but Jay Stanford (Division Manager of London’s environmental programs) is quoted as saying that it would be costly to add the traditional plastic grocery bags to our recycling program. And although A&P has an initiative aimed at temporarily reusing bags (“A&P ready to widen grocery bag recycling”; Joe Belanger; London Free Press; 2006/09/13), and is to be commended for it, their program only delays the inevitable. Sooner or later those bags tear because of reuse, and the issue of disposal once again has to be addressed. Reuse should not be viewed as an excuse for the continued sale of bags that are environmentally unfriendly.

For those people who don’t seem to care enough, intervention is warranted.

Mumbai, India has gone so far as to ban the manufacture, use, and sale of all plastic bags.

All over the world, many communities have adopted a median approach.

Figuring that plastic bags might not seem so attractive with a price tag, Ireland started charging a “PlasTax,” a 15-cent surcharge for each bag used at the checkout counter, in 2002. “The tax reduced plastic bag use by one billion bags, or approximately 90 per cent over the first year. Moreover, the tax raised approximately $9.6 million for a green environmental fund and saved 18 million litres of oil from reduced plastic manufacturing.”


BBC News quoted Ireland’s Environment Minister Martin Cullen as saying that the improvement was “immediate” and “plain to see,” and “It is clear that the levy has not only changed consumer behaviour in relation to disposable plastic bags, it has also raised national consciousness about the role each one of us can, and must play if we are to tackle collectively the problems of litter and waste management.”

Here’s some links that you might like to check out:

  • http://www.michaelmbell.net/suscon-papers/hendrickson-paper.doc
  • http://www.onedayvancouver.ca/news.php?type=2&id=108
  • http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Front_Page/FK27Aa01.html
  • http://www.csr-asia.com/index.php?p=5937
  • http://www.sundayherald.com/41176
  • http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2006/July/Editorial.asp
  • http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2005/07/14/papa_got_an_old_used_bag.php
  • http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=6
  • http://reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=9&display=print
  • http://www.myownbag.com/activism.html
  • http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/bags/
  • http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=2054
  • http://www.smartgrowth.bc.ca/index.cfm
  • http://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=15&cat=43&id=702941&more=
  • http://www.environ.ie/DOEI/DOEIPol.nsf/wvNavView/Plastic+Bags?OpenDocument&Lang=
  • http://www.iisd.org/susprod/displaydetails.asp?id=148
  • http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_10.23.03/op/oped.php
  • http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=fc6b1c20-ffe9-4f9a-b9ff-9fcb8d7826d6&k=99380
  • http://www.plasticbag.com/news/cabagtax.html
  • http://www.independentvoice.ca/2006/06/editorial/AMorgan_ShoppingBags.php
  • http://www.greenconsumerguide.com/index.php?news=2262&icid=I033-1142108-148A
  • http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.net/main/categories.php?op=newindex&catid=34
  • http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-2190027,00.html
  • http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?id=28009-irish-plastic-bag
  • http://www.sundayherald.com/51509
  • http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/01/shopping_bag_ta.php
  • http://marionsmith.blogspot.com/2006/01/plastic-bag-tax-must.html
  • http://www.adoptabeach.org.uk/pages/page.php?cust_id=41
  • http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2222867,00.html
  • http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/08/01/coming_soon_the_plastic_bag/
  • http://pffc-online.com/news/paper_industry_responds_california/index.html
  • http://www.badlani.com/blog/?m=200407
  • http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-06/19/content_4715534.htm
  • http://www.headheritage.co.uk/uknow/features/index.php?id=66
  • http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,171218,00.html
  • http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20021115/weekend01.htm
  • http://www.ecobags.com/Resources/Impact_of_Plastic_Bags
  • http://www.rootsandshoots.org/youth-network/reusablebag.asp
  • Some of what I’ve had to say in the past

    2006/09/13
    Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 19:17:00 -0400 (EDT)
    From: “Gregory Fowler”
    Subject: “Saving our planet, one bag at a time”
    To: jbelanger@lfpress.com
    CC: jsher@lfpress.com

    Mr Belanger,



    With respect to the article (“A&P ready to widen grocery bag recycling”;

    Joe Belanger; London Free Press; 2006/09/13) about the A&P initiative.



    The disclosure that the Canadian Plastics Industry Association is involved in the

    initiative leaves me with some questions about possible motivation, but I’m

    nevertheless happy to learn that a large grocery chain is making an attempt to

    address a serious problem.



    If elected to Council, I would attempt to initiate a community discussion about

    the adoption of a “PlasTax.”



    [Note that I’m not making the kind of unqualified promise that politicians

    typically do, since no member of Council can guarantee the passage of anything.]



    I hope to have this and other environmental proposals documented on my campaign

    site before much longer. In the meantime, I’m attaching some information (below)

    which may help to explain the concept further.



    Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One



    — Personal Background info —




    I am a Ward One candidate in the 2006 London Municipal Election.

    As a member of the disabled community who does rely on ODSP assistance, I am

    prevented from fundraising for my campaign because of the refusal of the local

    ODSP office to respond to my inquiries about how doing so would affect those

    benefits. An appeal to MPP Ramal’s office for assistance has been largely ignored.

    And the London Free Press and other local media are similarly ignoring the situation.

    This is the democracy that my uncle fought in WWII and died for?



    A former executive member of the NDP (President London-Middlesex, Secretary

    London-South, Manager London Community Office).



    Having had personal experience with unemployment, poverty, homelessness, suicidal

    depression, substance abuse, etc., I believe that I can bring a much-needed

    perspective to City Hall, and can advocate on behalf of the increasingly large

    population of disenfranchised citizens who are currently so poorly represented.








    source: http://www.onedayvancouver.ca/news.php?type=2&id=108



    WHEREAS plastic bag use has mushroomed in North America and Western Europe

    with four to five trillion of them produced in 2002, ranging from large trash bags

    to thick shopping totes to flimsy grocery sacks;



    AND WHEREAS after being discarded, many plastic bags litter our environment and

    end up in waterways, and ultimately, the ocean where they impact the health of

    marine life;



    AND WHEREAS every year more than 6 million tones or rubbish is dumped into the

    world’s oceans and it is estimated that there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic in

    every square mile of the ocean;



    AND WHEREAS in March 2002, the Government of Ireland imposed a 15 cent tax

    on each bag to control the country’s consumption of 1.2 billion shopping bags

    per year.

    The consumer was charged at check out and behaviour changed immediately and

    the tax resulted in a 90 to 95 percent drop in consumption and more than a billion

    fewer bags consumed annually;



    AND WHEREAS the so-called “PlasTax” also raised 9.6 million dollars in its final

    year that the Irish Government earmarked for a “green fund” of waste management

    and environmental initiatives. Retailers in Ireland, many of whom are now selling

    reusable bags, are also happy since they were spending $50 million a year on

    single-use bags before the tax;



    AND WHEREAS more dramatically, approximately 18 million litres of oil have been

    saved due to reduced production of plastic bags. These bags start as crude oil,

    natural gas or other petrochemical derivatives. They are transformed into chains

    of hydrogen and carbon molecules known as polymers or polymer resin. After being

    heated, shaped and cooled, the plastic is ready to be flattened, sealed, punched

    or printed on:



    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the the Lower Mainland Municipal Association and the

    Union of BC Municipalities petition the provincial and federal governments to

    impose a Plas Tax on plastic bags similar to the Government of Ireland.







    source: http://www.michaelmbell.net/suscon-papers/hendrickson-paper.doc



    Some BC municipalities recently passed a resolution forwarded to the Federation

    of Canadian Municipalities for consideration of a lifecycle charge on plastic bags

    to support environmental initiatives. For example, prior to 2002, Ireland used

    1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year, until introducing the PlasTax, a 15-cent

    surcharge for each bag used at the checkout counter. The tax reduced plastic bag

    use by one billion bags, or approximately 90 per cent over the first year. Moreover,

    the tax raised approximately $9.6 million for a green environmental fund and saved

    18 million litres of oil from reduced plastic manufacturing. The initiative shows

    great potential for Western Europe and North America, which use four to five

    trillion plastic bags annually.







    source: http://www.csr-asia.com/index.php?p=5937



    Supermarkets to cut plastic bag use



    Hong Kong’s two leading supermarket chains have taken action to cut plastic bag

    distribution following a proposal by the financial secretary’s to levy a users-pay

    tax in the long term. The Hong Kong Standard (March 1) reports Financial Secretary

    Henry Tang said in his budget speech last month that the government hopes to

    legislate against shops providing free plastic bags and will introduce a tax to

    deter consumption. Supermarket giants Wellcome and ParknShop have since

    announced voluntary initiatives that, if combined, could save more than

    50 million plastic bags this year. The Hong Kong the Environmental Protection

    Department (EPD) estimates Hong Kong uses 12 million plastic bags every day,

    25 percent of which come from major supermarkets. Wellcome last week signed

    a voluntary agreement with the department, pledging to reduce its distribution

    of plastic bags by 15 percent – or about 40 million bags this year. “Only a

    fraction of plastic bags in Hong Kong comes from supermarkets, but we do accept

    we are the most visible industry,” Wellcome director of marketing and development

    Mark Garwood said. “If we have consumers, businesses and government on our

    side, the reduction will happen. We have confidence we will not only meet, but

    surpass, the 15 percent goal. Our reputation is at stake if we don’t achieve it.”

    The chain also plans to raise public awareness by training checkout staff to ask

    customers if they need plastic bags, placing reminders at the cashier and

    throughout stores, and continuing special discount initiatives such as the

    “Bring Your Own Bag” campaign. Permanent Secretary for the Environment,

    Transport and Works Keith Kwok, who signed the agreement on behalf of the

    government, praised Wellcome, which reduced bag distribution by 10 percent last

    year. Referring to a plastic bag tax, Kwok said it would “need more discussion,”

    but pointed out that Taiwan’s decision to implement a plastic bag tax in 2002

    had spurred “fast action” and brought about “long-term effects.” Wellcome’s pledge

    came shortly after ParknShop announced it would save 12 million plastic bags this

    year through the sale of environment-friendly shopping bags and other initiatives.

    However, Friends of the Earth claims that number would only mean a 4 percent

    reduction from the 750,000 plastic bags ParknShop distributes everyday.







    source: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Front_Page/FK27Aa01.html



    Greens step up fight for plastic bag tax

    Sylvia Hui (sylvia.hui@globalchina.com); November 27, 2004



    Hong Kong shoppers use a staggering 24 million plastic bags a day, enough

    to blanket the entire 1,377 metre-long Tsing Ma Bridge, and environmental

    groups are trying to make them pay for it – much to the annoyance of

    supermarket giants ParknShop and Wellcome.



    The supermarket chains, owned by two of Hong Kong’s biggest trading

    companies, are seeking to block moves to impose a 50 HK cents plastic bag

    levy on their customers.



    The 50-cent-a-bag pilot trial was proposed by the Green Student Council,

    a non-governmental organisation, and supported by the Environmental

    Protection Department in a bid to reduce Hong Kong’s plastic bag

    consumption.



    Green groups say bags are no longer supplied free with purchases in places

    such as Taiwan, Shanghai and Ireland, dramatically cutting their use by

    consumers.



    In Ireland, they say, bag use was reduced by 90 per cent after a levy of

    about HK$1.40 per bag was introduced.



    In Taiwan, plastic bag use fell by 80 per cent after a levy of 30 HK

    cents was introduced in 2002.



    Plastic bag use is a growing concern because, according to the Council of

    Sustainable Development, Hong Kong’s existing landfills will be full in

    11 years.



    But the supermarkets said on Friday they have no intention of amending

    their current system of a 10 HK cents cash rebate for every plastic bag

    not used, claiming they are being unfairly targeted.



    The Green Student Council said its members will stage a protest today and

    submit a 5,000 signature petition supporting the levy to supermarket

    supremos Li Ka-shing, whose Hutchinson Whampoa conglomerate controls

    ParknShop, and Ronald Floto of the Jardine Matheson-controlled Dairy Farm,

    which operates Wellcome.



    They said they will also surround the supermarket companies’ headquarters

    at Cheung Kong Centre, Central, and Taikoo Place with chains made from

    plastic bags.


    The council wants an environmental fund set up should a green tax be

    imposed, so that income from the levy goes directly into environmental

    use instead of the government’s treasury.



    Financial Secretary Henry Tang proposed a green tax on plastic bags and

    tyres to legislators earlier this month.



    “This is a very good time for us to rethink the bag levy issue,” said

    Angus Ho of the Green Student Council. “The tax will take a long time to

    implement but we need to do something in the meantime.”



    A spokeswoman for Wellcome said the government has not contacted the chain

    to follow up the trial programme proposal since representatives from the

    government, green groups and supermarkets met in August.



    She said that if a levy is introduced it should apply to all retailers and

    not just the two supermarket chains.



    “We’re willing to co-operate in environmental protection, but it’s unfair

    to target us as all supermarkets together were responsible for only 8.6

    per cent of the total plastic bags used in 2003,” she said.



    “About HK$600,000 has been spent on the cash rebate system each year since

    the company introduced it in 1997, and 33 million bags have been saved in

    that time.”



    But Ho said the 8.6 per cent figure was misleading and that the supermarkets

    remain the largest users of plastic bags and bear responsibility under the

    polluter-pays principle.



    Wellcome and ParknShop together operate about 500 stores in Hong Kong.



    A ParknShop spokeswoman said the 10 HK cents rebate is already well above

    both the net and landfill costs of each bag, which is about five cents.



    In rejecting the 50-cent levy, the chain said it will have a “negative

    business impact” on its operations.



    ParknShop has “already made progress” in reducing bag use, with 2.2 million

    bags saved from January to July this year, according to the spokeswoman.



    But Ho estimates that fewer than 40 bags are saved from each ParknShop and

    Wellcome branch each day.



    A recent Green Student Council survey revealed that one-third of the 10 million

    bags given out by supermarkets each day are unnecessary.







    source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2205419.stm



    Irish bag tax hailed success

    BBC News; 2002/08/20



    A tax on plastic shopping bags in the Republic of Ireland has cut their use by

    more than 90% and raised millions of euros in revenue, the government says.



    The tax of 15 cents per bag was introduced five months ago in an attempt to

    curb litter, and the improvement had been immediate and “plain to see”, said

    Environment Minister Martin Cullen.



    He said that the 3.5 million euros in extra revenue raised so far would be spent

    on environmental projects.



    The “plastax” is being closely watched by other countries, particularly

    neighbouring Britain.



    Bangladesh has banned polythene bags altogether while Taiwan and Singapore are

    taking steps to discourage their use.



    “The levy has been an outstanding success in achieving what it set out to do,”

    said Mr Cullen.



    “Over one billion plastic bags will be removed from circulation while raising

    funding for future environmentally friendly initiatives.”



    He added: “It is clear that the levy has not only changed consumer behaviour

    in relation to disposable plastic bags, it has also raised national consciousness

    about the role each one of us can, and must play if we are to tackle collectively

    the problems of litter and waste management.”



    Windblown litter



    The environment ministry estimated that about 1.2 billion free plastic bags were

    being handed out every year in the republic, leaving windblown bags littering

    Irish streets and the countryside.



    In the three months after the tax was introduced, shops handed out just over

    23 million plastic bags – about 277 million fewer than normal, the government said.



    Shoppers are being encouraged to use tougher, reusable bags.



    The ministry said that if the current trend continued, the tax would bring in

    10 million euros in a full year.



    Other countries around the world are also taking action to curb plastic bag litter.



    In March, Bangladesh banned polythene bags after it was found that they were

    blocking drainage systems and had been a major culprit during the 1988 and 1998

    floods that submerged two-thirds of the country.



    Taiwan and Singapore are also moving to ban free plastic bags and in South Africa

    they have been dubbed the “national flower” because so many can be seen flapping

    from fences and caught in bushes.







    check out:



    http://www.sundayherald.com/41176

    http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2006/July/Editorial.asp

    http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2005/07/14/papa_got_an_old_used_bag.php

    http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=6

    http://reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=9&display=print

    http://www.myownbag.com/activism.html

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/bags/

    http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=2054

    http://www.smartgrowth.bc.ca/index.cfm

    http://www.environ.ie/DOEI/DOEIPol.nsf/wvNavView/Plastic+Bags?OpenDocument

    http://www.iisd.org/susprod/displaydetails.asp?id=148

    http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_10.23.03/op/oped.php

    http://www.plasticbag.com/news/cabagtax.html

    http://www.independentvoice.ca/2006/06/editorial/AMorgan_ShoppingBags.php

    http://www.greenconsumerguide.com/index.php?news=2262&icid=I033-1142108-148A

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-2190027,00.html

    http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?id=28009-irish-plastic-bag

    http://www.sundayherald.com/51509

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/01/shopping_bag_ta.php

    http://marionsmith.blogspot.com/2006/01/plastic-bag-tax-must.html

    http://www.adoptabeach.org.uk/pages/page.php?cust_id=41

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2222867,00.html

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/08/01/coming_soon_the_plastic_bag/

    http://pffc-online.com/news/paper_industry_responds_california/index.html

    http://www.badlani.com/blog/?m=200407

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-06/19/content_4715534.htm

    http://www.headheritage.co.uk/uknow/features/index.php?id=66

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,171218,00.html

    http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20021115/weekend01.htm

    http://www.ecobags.com/Resources/Impact_of_Plastic_Bags

    http://www.rootsandshoots.org/youth-network/reusablebag.asp

    </table

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