A movement to tax plastic bags has sprouted in British Columbia to try to reduce litter.
Janice Harris, a North Vancouver Council member, is promoting a 25 cent tax on retail bags. Councils for North Vancouver and Coquitlam support the idea and will bring it up at a meeting of British Columbia municipalities in October. If the cities support the motion, they will present it to the provincial government, which has the power to levy the tax.
``People feel overwhelmed by the amount of plastic packaging,'' Harris said in a telephone interview. ``People are giving up on litter because there is too much to deal with.''
Harris said the proposed tax is high enough to discourage wanton use of bags, but not so high as to tax them out of existence. She compared the idea with Ireland's PlasTax.
She conceded that the idea is not a panacea and that other plastics packaging, such as water bottles, are part of the problem. Taxing bags ``is one of many ideas to reduce the amount of plastic we use.''
``Taxes don't solve anything,'' said Serge Lavoie, president of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
Taxes typically end up in general government revenue streams not aimed at waste management, Lavoie said in a telephone interview from CPIA's head office in Mississauga, Ontario.
``The real agenda [proposed by Harris] is to move against all plastic packaging,'' he said.
Litter problems are best addressed by proper use of bags and recycling, according to Lavoie. CPIA is informing consumers on how to use bags wisely, through the myplasticbags.ca Web site. The site's features include an area where consumers type in their postal codes to find out which local municipalities and retail outlets take bags back for recycling.
Lavoie said there are already effective bag take-back progams in Harris' region of British Columbia.
Lavoie said the bag tax in Ireland did not reduce total use of films and bags in that country. To compensate for the lack of retail bags, consumers used more bin liners, film and other flexible plastic packaging, boosting the overall total, he said.