Saving our planet; one bag at a time

August 16, 2007

Quebec mulls 20-cent tax on plastic shopping bags

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 2:44 pm

Quebec mulls 20-cent tax on plastic shopping bags

Max Harrold of the Montreal Gazette, quotes the environment minister as saying “We’ll decide on some kind of deterrent this autumn”

I’ve reproduced the entire story here. If you’d like to read the story where it originally appeared on the Gazette’s website click here.

Even while using them to lug groceries yesterday, shoppers at a downtown supermarket agreed plastic bags have become as wasteful as they are handy.

“Yep, they are bad for the environment,” Nan Wang, 32, said as she hoisted two bulging bags out of the PA store on Fort St.

She said she was aware plastic bags can take 400 years to decompose, “but I need them to carry my things,” she said, grudgingly.

“I do reuse them - to pick up after my dog,” she offered.

Hans Chicoine, 45, said he uses a reusable cotton bag to shop, and biodegradable garbage bags.

A 20-cent tax per shopping bag - a “plastax” the Quebec government is considering - would push others to use reusable grocery bags, Chicoine said.

The province is preparing some kind of deterrent, but exactly what is still up in the air, Quebec Environment Minister Line Beauchamp said yesterday.

“We need to endorse the trend among Quebecers to use fewer and fewer plastic bags,” she said before entering a meeting of the provincial Liberal caucus in La Pocatière. “They are a plague on the environment. So we will take a decision this fall.”

Beauchamp added it was too early to say if it would be a law, a bylaw or targeted measures.

Other Liberal MNAs resisted new regulations, however. “Before adopting coercive measures, we need to see what people can do to promote the use of reusable bags. New taxes are never very popular,” Natural Resources Minister Claude Béchard said.

Besides a tax, the government could require merchants to sell only biodegradable bags made with starch and to ban plastic bags, said Jacques Lalonde, founder of EcoContribution, an environmental advocacy group.

But a plastax is preferable to a ban, as it would be faster to impose and more effective, he said.

“A ban would require lots of consultations and preparation. A tax has shown it can work from one day to the next.”

Introduced in 2002, Ireland’s tax of 15 cents per bag reduced their use by 95 per cent in that country, Lalonde said.

Based on the estimate Quebecers use 1.5 billion bags annually, a 90 per cent reduction would generate $30 million for the government, he said.

Noémie Botbol, 22, a green patroller at the Éco-Quartier in the Petite Patrie district, said the time for gentle reminders is over.

“Sadly, people respond only when their wallets are hit,” said Botbol, who bikes through the neighbourhood and advises residents about recycling. “You get two kinds of people: They either care a lot and want to change, or they don’t know and don’t care.”

Back at the supermarket, a 72-year-old man who identified himself only as Ivan said the benefits from reducing plastic bag use wouldn’t be felt for generations.

“The good Earth will take care of herself long after we’re gone.”


A look at how other jurisdictions deal with plastic bags

2002: Ireland introduces its “plastax,” a 15-cent levy on plastic bags given by retailers.

2002: Bangladesh bans polyethylene bags after drains and sewage lines clogged by bags are blamed for health hazards and flooding. If Bangladesh is anything like my home country  India,  the ban probably  isn’t enforced.

March: San Francisco bans petrol-based plastic bags in large supermarkets and pharmacy chains, a U.S. first.

April: Leaf Rapids, Man., becomes Canada’s first plastic shopping bag-free zone: retailers can no longer give away or sell plastic bags for single use.

By 2009: Australia plans to phase out plastic bags.

Source: The Gazette

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