Mayor Josie Osborne is confident that an eventual ban on plastic bags is inevitable in Tofino, but believes education must come before enforcement.
Tofino’s council received a presentation from Surfrider Pacific Rim members Michelle Hall and Laura Griffith-Cochrane on April 23 that spoke about the dangers plastic bags are posing to local ecosystems and wildlife and called for a community-wide ban.
Hall said she and Griffith-Cochrane brought roughly 6,642 pieces of litter collected during April 22’s Earth Day cleanup of Tofino’s Multi-Use Path, including 202 plastic bags and 264 soft plastics.
“The presentation was very well received,” said Osborne, who added council voiced “no opposition to the idea of undertaking the work to implement a bag ban.”
She added though the district’s staff are already under heavy workloads so council agreed to do some investigating themselves by reaching out to other municipalities that have experience with bag bans and gather some more information from Surfrider.
“I expect to see direction come from council within the next month or so,” she said. “This will give us the opportunity to thoughtfully discuss a disposable plastic bag ban, how it could be implemented and what alternatives to plastics are most appropriate, and how education and enforcement will occur.”
She said she believes most Tofitians are “more than ready” to see plastic bags nixed from their community and that locals should not view council’s reluctance to have their staff immediately begin working on a bag ban as evidence of hesitance.
“For starters, it’s important to recognize that a bylaw in and of itself does little. People don’t instantly follow a new rule without understanding why it’s being established, without education and understanding about why the rule is set,” she said. “The real heavy lifting is all the work Surfrider Pacific Rim has done, the education and helping people and businesses shift in their behaviour…I hope that implementing a plastic bag ban will be relatively straightforward, but it will still require outreach the few remanning businesses using them, as well as reaching community members who may feel taken by surprise.”
She added an eventual ban on plastic bags seems inevitable in the community as Canada in general is moving away from plastics.
“For Tofino, moving towards banning single use plastic is not a case of ‘if,’ it’s just a case of ‘when,’” she said. “We are ready for this. An oft-cited criticism of plastic bag bans is ‘Why focus on bags? It’s such a small part of the problem.’ That’s true, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. What is also true is that regulatory bans, accompanied by education, are helping to shift society from a disposable attitude to one that is more aware and thoughtful about the true cost and impact of single-use plastics.”