A delegation that consisted of two adults and two youth presented to Council, urging them to immediately take action on implementing a ban on single-use bags. The first presentation, made by Wendy O’Connor, representing Zero Waste, noted that they have been before council annually since 2016, pushing for this. Zoe Minnaard also spoke (we don’t have a copy of her presentation), and spoke to the need for urgency. It was noted that the average person uses 200-300 plastic bags per year, and only 5% of these bags get recycled. Victoria has moved forward on this, so Sooke can not longer position themselves as leaders in the movement, but they can join the many who are adopting this. Two local youth added their voices in an plea for action, now!
For this write-up, we have Wendy’s presentation, followed by the presentations by two youth, Dylan Broadbent and Marin Clarkston. This is followed by Council’s response at the end.
Address from Wendy O’Connor, representing Zero Waste Sooke
First off thank you for implementing Zero Waste Sooke’s earlier request in the inclusion of a three-tiered drinking water fountain with the construction of the vault toilet at John Phillips Memorial Park this spring. It would be wonderful to continue that design inclusion with the District’s upcoming plan for a Whiffin Spit restroom.
Zero Waste Sooke first presented our three asks in Sept 2016, we came before council again with those same requests in July 2017, and again in July 2018. It’s not that we are pig-headed and won’t take “no” for an answer, as at all three of these presentations at least half of the council seemed more than interested in hearing about these possibilities. In fact at last year’s meeting to be precise:
MOVED by Councillor Pearson, seconded by Councillor Logins:
THAT Council direct staff to draft a bylaw banning the use of singleuse plastic bags in Sooke.
CARRIED In Favour: Mayor Tait, Councillor Kasper, Councillor Logins, Councillor Parkinson, Councillor Pearson, and Councillor Reay Absent: Councillor Berger
Our question then is where do we stand with this by-law?
We in Sooke could have been leaders in environmental stewardship on Vancouver Island back in 2016. With Council’s recent declaration of a climate emergency in Sooke, mandate to be carbon neutral by 2030, that the climate be a priority to Strategic Planning as well as the reactivation of the Climate Change Action Committee, we feel our push for an “Elimination of Single-Use Plastic Bags” bylaw appears to be a perfect fit.
If I may quote Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni:
“Canada’s approach to the plastics crisis has been long on rhetoric, short on legislation, and heavily invested in plastics production. We are a huge laggard on this issue. What we need instead of platitudes and forecasts of commitments that are years out…., is legislation and regulations implemented now”.
If there is any way that Zero Waste Sooke can help staff and Council with implementation, we are at your service. We would also ask to be included on updates if at all possible.
Address from 11-year-old Sooke Youth Dylan Broadbent
Hello, my name is Dylan Broadbent. Thank you for having me here tonight. I would like to speak from the youth’s perspective.
I am here to speak to you about my future, about my little brother and sisters future, about your kids’ future. The decisions we make today affect the generations to come.
In my research I have found plastic bags are the most common man-made items seen by sailors at sea. Biggest problem with plastic bags is that they don’t break down easily in the environment and can take up to 10,000 years to decompose.
We urge the District of Sooke to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags. We need to protect this earth. We have to start somewhere, let’s start with the bag.
Address from EMCS student Marin Clarkston
Hello, My name is Marin Clarkston and I am a grade 11 student at EMCS. I am here to represent the student perspective as well as the youth in Sooke.
The decisions we made yesterday, the actions we make today, and the world we create tomorrow is the world that my generation has to live in.
I recently travelled to the Dominican Republic where people drag their garbage out to the beaches everyday and wait for the tide to come in and wash it away. It is a terrible thing to think about, but is what we are doing here any better? Just because we hide our garbage in cans where we don’t have to look at it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because it’s not ending up on our front lawns doesn’t mean its not ending up on someone else’s. Just because it’s not happening right here right now doesn’t mean it is not happening.
We need to stop ignoring the rest of the world’s deterioration because it makes us uneasy, and start preserving our own home first. Learn from other countries mistakes and fix our own.
My friend Emma Helms is an exchange student from Germany and unfortunately is unable to make it tonight. However, she gave me a couple words to say. Emma tells me that the European parliament has approved a law banning a wide range of single-use plastic in every European country. They have banned plastic straws, plastic cutlery, and single-use plastic bags. She says that this change in Europe has been nothing but appreciated throughout every country by its people and its lands. Significant changes may seem daunting at first, but are rewarding in its outcomes.
Banning single-use plastic bags in our tiny town may seem like a small step, but it is these small steps added together that make a meaningful change. As a member of the community, as well as a youth I feel that as an individual we do not have the power to make a big enough change. We can change our own lifestyle but it needs to be larger than that. The people in power are the only ones that can make these crucial decisions. Our world is changing and we cannot be the last to evolve with it. We have to adapt, but most of all adapt in a sustainable way. World pollution is not unstoppable but we can no longer ignore this pressing problem. We can no longer send our problems away with our garbage.
Change has to happen, and it has to happen today.
Council’s feedback to the presenters
Following the delegation, Mayor Maja Tait noted that the delay was a case of transitioning to a new Council. This particular items was listed as an outstanding resolution, and District staff have been working on drafting the bylaw. A draft will be presented to Sooke Council next month.
Discussed at Council on April 23
- Miscellaneous soundbites from the April 23 2019 Sooke Council meeting
- Seven home development gets approved by Council
- Proposal for university-sponsored study severely criticized but ultimately passed by Council
- Zero Waste and Sooke Youth urge Council to act on the single-use plastics ban, NOW!