Leadership on Environment Issues
Councillor Dawn Sloane, recently sparked a debate in regards to exploring the possibility of banning plastic bags in HRM. This is an interesting issue, and it raises many questions. Firstly, there are many other cities that have banned plastic bags: Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, Toronto, Alberta’s Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to name a few. Other cities who have banned plastic bags are listed in this article: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm
Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, and can last in the environment for hundreds of years. They fit nicely into our current consumer and consumption based society. Currently, in HRM Pete's Frootique charges 5 cents/bag and Quinpool Road Superstore is bag-less. However, most people have countless cloth re-usable bags, and speaking from personal experience charging 5 cents/bag is truly not a deterrent to using plastic bags. In Ireland for example, they began charging 15 cents/bag in 2002. Within five months, a 90% reduction in plastic bag use was recorded. Additionally, the money raised from the bag levy is used to fund environmental projects. While, I feel a bag tax may in the short-term address use however it is in my opinion a band-aid solution. I agree with Lezile Lowe in that we need a cultural shift to consume less, and reduce the need to recycle these plastic bags.
I think we need to take it further and develop some long-term vision on environment at the municipal level. We need to systematically shift our perception of the relationship we share between humanity and the Earth. There are strong collectives in HRM raising the alarm such as Our HRM Alliance. We as a municipality need to seriously look at striking plans to invest in renewable energy, improved public transit/active transportation systems, water protection, urban farming, coastal protection. Additionally, as noted by Our HRM Alliance I second their desire to have a master plan for Halifax Harbour. We want to move forward and be sustainable: we need to focus more of healthy communities in the sense of humans, flora and fauna. In developing HRM environment policy we can evaluate past successful practice in other jurisdictions, which will save time and money as we would not have to re-invent the proverbial wheel.
We need strong encouragement and policy in HRM to foster smart, development that is sustainable on the social, environment and economic areas.