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Research before action on a plastic bag ban in Belleville

By Tyson Leonard

Belleville needs to do research before introducing a ban on plastic bags, says a city councillor.

Councillor Jodie Jenkins said he sees the need for getting rid of plastic bags but more research would have to be done on whether it would work in Belleville.

“I definitely would encourage and support looking into it and see what can be done,” said Jenkins.

Some cities have tried to solve the environmental problems caused by plastic bags by imposing a fee on the bags. Other cities have banned plastic bags outright.

Toronto is the latest big city to ban plastic bags. The ban is set to start in January 2013, although there are still some hurdles it will have to overcome to become law.  Other cities that have banned plastic bags include San Francisco, Mexico City and the entire country of Rwanda.

A poll done by Angus Reid shows 54 per cent of Ontarians support banning plastic shopping bags. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Jenkins said he doesn’t know if he supports a ban. He said there are a lot of questions that would have to be answered first.

“I don’t know enough about the issue to really say whether I would or wouldn’t personally,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins said one thing the council can do for now is lead by example.

“The hope is when people look to their leadership in the municipality they will see patterns and behaviours being modeled by them that would be something they want to emulate,” said Jenkins.

Plastic bags have a bad habit of ending up littered on the streets. It makes the city look dirty, said Jenkins.

“You don’t have to go to far to see plastic bags in ditches, plastic bags stuck to trees, plastic bags floating through a parking lot,” said Jenkins.

Belleville resident Patricia Bellwood said it doesn’t matter to her whether Belleville bans plastic bags.

“We use cloth bags anyways. We have been for a long time,” said Bellwood.

Resident Fraser Secret said he doesn’t know why everyone is so up in arms about a plastic bag ban.

“To be honest I don’t think it’s a big deal either way. I was shocked people even cared about the five-cent charge, who gives a damn,” said Secret.

“I have about 20 cloth bags at home and I usually forget them and end up getting plastic bags. I reuse them though, and recycle them too.”

Some residents would care if a ban were enacted.

“No I wouldn’t support a ban, because I find it very hard to carry two or more cloth bags under your arms,” said Jaime Hunt.

Sharon Irvine would support a ban on plastic bags. She uses both plastic and cloth bags but prefers cloth.

“We think that a better option than one-use plastic bags would be using biodegradable or compostable bags for those one-use functions,” said Jennifer May-Anderson, a communications and marketing specialist with Quinte Conservation.

Quinte Conversation is a community group based in Belleville aimed at ensuring a healthy relationship between the community, environment and its economy.

May-Anderson would not say whether Quinte Conversation would support a ban on plastic bags.

Fishing line has been their biggest concern this year but plastic bags are definitely a danger to wild animals, said May-Anderson.

“We have noticed an increased usage of re-useable bags and a decreased usage of plastic bags,” said Christine English, director of administration, facilities management, and health and safety at Giant Tiger head offices in Ottawa.

Giant Tiger operates two stores in Belleville. Both of them use plastic bags and sell reusable bags. The Bridge St. store acts as a recycling depot for plastic bags.

“We provide shopping bags as a service and convenience for our customers and believe that they should drive the decision,” said English.

English would not say whether Giant Tiger would be for or against a ban on plastic bags.