Sunday, July 1, 2018

Monthly Micro-Action: BYOBAG

*MLA’s note* I’m so happy to introduce Laska Paré! Laska is one of our amazing constituents in Saanich South, and is also a monthly guest blogger on my website! She writes about tips on small changes we can make in our day-to-day lives to encourage us to live more sustainably. Read on below to find out more! -Lana 

July 1st and it’s finally here: Victoria's new bylaw banning businesses from providing single-use plastic bags at the checkout.

Did you know?

Each Victoria resident uses approximately 200 single-use plastic bags a year[1]. For a population of 85,000 (and growing!), this equates to 17 million plastic bags, making up more than 15% the waste at the Hartland landfill! And that’s just Victoria. Check out the June cover of National Geographic where they pose the ominous question, Planet or Plastic?

Like an iceberg looming on the horizon, plastic poses a threat in the unknown. What impact are plastics having on us, and our environment? What is the scale of the impact both now and in the future? How can we begin to untangle ourselves from our relationships with plastic, and will this be enough?

Part of understanding the plastic problem lies in understanding the ‘solutions’ that are currently available. One challenge is that while solutions do appear to exist, closer examination shows they aren’t necessarily effective at addressing the problem. “But this bag is biodegradable!” “Biodegradable” is often advertised on products or food packaging. By definition it means “to decay and become absorbed by the environment”. Do plastic bags biodegrade? Yes, they do break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic when exposed to sunlight and water. But they do not decompose into elements found in nature. No wonder people are confused. To most of us, “break down” sounds like a good thing. But what many of us may not realize is if the components are not from nature, they will only degrade so far and could become ingested by smaller life forms. But what many of us may not realize is that degraded plastic is still plastic, and once in the environment, this can have devastating results. For example, fish.

In 2015, the United Nations Environment Programme identified biodegradables as an “unrealistic solution” and concluded that “the label ‘biodegradable’ may actually encourage littering.”

Tackling the iceberg

We each have a role to play in reducing the burden of plastic on our planet. July 1st marks the first day of the new BYO Bag bylaw, which affects all businesses in the City of Victoria (for more information about the bylaw see here. Think of this as your first day with less plastic, and a great time to start your reduced-plastic frame of mind.

The City of Victoria has launched a contest seeking out creative and compelling ways to promote reusable shopping bags. Being the eco-warrior that I am, I took on the challenge and created a fun rap in support of the new bylaw. Check out my entry!

Micro-Action For July

Ditch the plastic and bring your own bag. Make it part of your daily routine to remember at least one reusable bag whenever you leave the house, and keep a spare (or two!) in the car and at work. Remember, incorporating one small change into your life and routine is how we all collectively tackle the proverbial plastic iceberg. Micro-actions are all about taking small steps toward meaningful goals.