Three communities in Bonne Bay South aren’t waiting for a ban on single use plastic bags to cut down on waste.
Woody Point, Glenburnie-Birchy Head-Shoal Brook and Trout River have joined forces to bring in reusable shopping bags for their residents.
Working together is nothing new for the towns, said Tanya Osmond, Wood Point’s town manager/clerk. The towns have a regional joint council and already share many services.
Osmond said the effort shows a united front.
“All three of our communities are working together to help the environment.”
The area is known for its beautiful scenery and is becoming environmentally conscious.
It’s also being affected by climate change.
Woody Point had to declare a state of emergency after flooding in January 2018 impacted the town’s water supply.
Osmond said it was after that her council started discussing what it could do to make its own footprint lighter and that spring began looking at banning single-use plastic bags.
“...Being that we’re in a national park and we’re right next to an ocean, which is actually being severely affected by single use plastic bags,” she said.
“And when you have thousands and thousands of people coming through your community every week, that’s all plastic bags … and we can make a big impact on the rest of Canada and the world by them seeing that in this little community, we’re making an effort in our small way.”
The bags aren’t recyclable and while some people reuse them, often as garbage bags for things like cat litter, they still end up in the landfill.
So, the town passed a regulation banning single-use plastic bags that came into effect Jan. 1.
Businesses were notified of the regulation and told they could use up the supply of plastic bags they had. Osmond said the town knows it’s a regulation that's unenforceable and just encourages them, while being appreciative of their efforts to comply.
With the ban in place, Osmond started brainstorming on how the town could make it easier for residents to get reusable bags.
“It’s a far-fetched idea to suddenly stop using it,” she said, adding that if people didn’t have to go out and purchase one, which could mean having to leave the community to do so, they would be more likely to use it.
She discussed applying to the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB) for funding to buy reusable shopping bags for residents with her council. With their support, she brought the idea to the other town managers and to the joint council and the initiative was approved.
Osmond saw the initiative as not only a way to help residents, but also the communities themselves by including the logos of all the towns on the bags as a means of advertising and promoting the towns.
The bags are also a bit about inclusion and bringing the communities together more.
The towns received $6,200 from the MMSB and purchased 1,500 reusable shopping bags, the perfect size to carry what residents need during trips to local stores. The bags have been divided among the towns based on the number of households – 300 to Trout River, 200 to Glenburnie-Birchy Head-Shoal Brook and 300 to Woody Point. The extras will be available for new residents and to give out at community events.
In Woody Point the town’s events co-ordinator has been going door to door, handing out the bags and people can also pick them up at Mayor Greg Osmond’s home. The mayor is Tanya’s husband.
She said this is not the first time the town has taken on an environmental initiative. Last year the town was successful in getting funding from MMSB for a commercial compost area to help reduce its waste management costs.
Osmond said 30 per cent of total waste in weight is in compostable material, so the town reached out to local restaurants which have the largest amount of compostable waste in vegetable peelings.
“If you think about how many French fries goes out of this town in the run of week,” she said with a chuckle.
In one week one restaurant filled two large, four feet high by two feet around, compost bins. To also make this initiative easy on the participants the town picks up the filled bins and replaced them with empty ones.
Some residents have also gotten into the habit of bringing their own compostable materials to the site. Osmond said if the town can get its waste tonnage down it could have a positive impact on taxes.
Next year the town plans to go after more funding to help with a proposed ban on single-use plastics with a focus on water bottles. The plan is to put outdoor water bottle filling stations around the town.