About 50 students delivered a petition to Kingston’s City Hall calling for plastic bags to be banned.

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Author: Elliot Ferguson, The Kingston Whig-Standard

After months of collecting signatures, students from Elginburg and District Public School delivered their petition calling for a ban on single-use plastics and coloured polystyrene to City Hall Tuesday morning.

About 50 pupils were on the front steps of City Hall to hand a petition with more than 1,500 signatures to Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson receives a petition with 1,462 signatures calling for a ban on the use of single-use plastic bags and coloured polystyrene from elementary school pupils on Tuesday. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard) ELLIOT FERGUSON / ELLIOT FERGUSON/WHIG-STANDARD

The petition to the city called for a ban on the manufacturing and commercial use of plastic bags and coloured polystyrene.

“I think it was a mind-blowing, brilliant success,” teacher Jerri Jerreat said. “I think it has really empowered the students. I really wanted them to learn to be active citizens, to care, to participate in their government.”

The pupils came up with the idea for a petition calling for a plastics ban after classroom visits from Derek Ochej, the city’s committee clerk, and former Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala, who was in front of City Hall to see the petition handed over. 

The petition is to be presented to city council at its Tuesday night meeting.

“It’s quite inspiring to see kids from across the community work for weeks to get signatures from people all over the city,” Paterson said. “This sort of thing sends a strong message.”

City staff are already looking into the feasibility of banning single-use plastics in the city, and Paterson said a similar effort is being made by the provincial government.

“If there is an attempt to do this provincewide then obviously we would participate in that. If it is going to be a local effort, then we are certainly going to take the lead on whatever we can do locally,” he said.

Other municipalities in Canada have moved to ban single-use plastics, including St. Catharines, which banned plastic straws, Vancouver, which banned straws and polystyrene cups and containers, and Montreal, which banned single-use plastic bags.

“It is encouraging to see that the bans of those single-use plastics have been effective,” Sara Lynn Belontz, a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at Western University, said.

“Of course, any type of ban is controversial, especially when it comes to consumers because they assume they are going to have to spend more money.”

Only about 11 per cent of plastic in Canada is recycled annually, and the country uses about 2.86 billion plastic bags every year.

Blintz said municipal bans and fees, such as a five cent charge for plastic bags, have helped divert plastic away from landfills.

A motion regarding a single-use plastic ban should come before council later this year, Paterson said.

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