Edmonton, Alberta restricting single-use plastics to help eliminate those items from appearing in landfills. Edmonton’s new 25-year waste strategy found that most of the city would be in favour of a ban.

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Author: Hamdi Issawi, The Edmonton Star

EDMONTON—Styrofoam cups and plastic straws don’t hold much water in Edmonton, and the city is looking for a way to keep them out of the trash.

A City of Edmonton report outlining feedback for a new 25-year waste strategy found most of the city is behind scrapping (or at least stemming) single-use plastics.

According to city surveys, between 66 and 77 per cent of those who responded support the elimination or restriction of single-use plastic items in the city — disposable items like straws, bags, styrofoam cups. Support for restrictions from the commercial and industrial sector ranged between 65 and 67 per cent.

“There was a lot of support out there in the big sense that we needed to do something around that,” Henderson said, noting the results were encouraging.

The report also included research from Waste Free Edmonton, a grassroots group driven to reducing single-use disposables, that looked at single-use plastic restrictions made by more than 100 jurisdictions around the world, including Canada.

Based on available data, those measures, the group added, which range from a ban to fees, cut usage by 50 to 90 per cent.

Compared to a decade ago, Henderson said the research supplied valuable examples to help the city design policy to curb plastic waste in its own backyard.

“You were really guessing about what would be effective and what wouldn’t be effective,” he added. “We’ve now got some really good information on what works.”

Melissa Goriee, a co-founder and director of Waste Free Edmonton, addressed the committee Friday morning and offered a list of recommendations to help shape a single-use plastic bylaw for Edmonton.

The recommendations included a ban on disposables like styrofoam containers and plastic straws, so long as reusable or compostable alternatives of the latter (like paper straws) be available for accessibility.

For other disposable containers, the group suggested legislating a surcharge, and requiring that these items be constructed from compostable or recyclable material.

A hybrid approach was proposed for grocery bags, where the single-use plastic variety is banned and a charge placed on paper in its stead.

Goriee also proposed complimentary policies to a bylaw, such as education and engagement campaigns to promote sustainable habits.

“I don’t want it to be just about banning and taxing,” she said to the committee. “I want it to be about changing mindsets and lifestyles.”

Incorporating Waste Free Edmonton’s recommendations, the city will use the report to inform the second round of public engagement beginning later this month, and expects to have the framework of a bylaw ready in the spring.

“There are now some specific recommendations that we’re going to take out and test with people to see how we can move forward,” Henderson said. “Now it’s about fine tuning and getting it right.”

City officials are expected to report back to the committee with a final strategy at the end of June.

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