Coun. Norm Arsenault expects to start slowly with a ban on single-use plastic straws, stir sticks and plastic utensils, but he doesn’t expect to stop there.
He has given notice of a motion he plans to make to council Monday, which will open the conversation about reducing the use of plastic, he says. He is asking for a staff report, hoping it will lead to a bylaw that will eliminate those three items from municipal buildings. He chose to start with them because they are easily replaced — straws can be made of paper, stir sticks of wood, and utensils of metal.
“I’d like to start with those, and I’d also like to work with retailers and other businesses. I’m not rushing into this but I’m putting it out there that we need to do something.”
Arsenault was one of the volunteers who helped clean up the town waterfront Sunday, he says, and the amount of garbage, especially plastic, “was a real eye-opener. We need to get started on this.”
Under the Municipal Act, the Town has the right to ban use of plastics if it chooses, as is happening across the country, he says.
“This isn’t something new. We might be the first municipality in the region, though. Somebody’s got to take the leadership role.”
Other Niagara municipalities have banned single-use plastic straws and stir sticks, including Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, and have included municipal facilities and events, but not businesses.
Both cities approved motions on the ban unanimously. Niagara Falls recommended regional council be encouraged to endorse it as well.
Arsenault wants to talk to retailers about raising the cost of plastic bags used by businesses, and possibly instituting a fee on plastic cups. Any extra revenue above what is already being charged would go into a fund to be used on environmental issues, he says. But the Region would have to be onboard — he doesn’t want NOTL restaurants and retailers to feel they are at a disadvantage in their businesses. He hopes Lord Mayor Betty Disero will begin that discussion with the other Niagara municipalities.
Arsenault says he would prefer to educate people rather than force them to change through a bylaw, and he plans to roll out the ban in several stages, after consultation with those involved.
When he makes his presentation at council Monday, he says he has some “serious numbers” to offer that will back up what he is saying, and will highlight the need for change.
“We can’t say this is someone else’s problem. It’s not. I don’t want to leave this up to our children or our grandchildren. We created this mess and we should work on fixing it.”