RM Alexander votes to ban single use plastics

By Don Norman

During the October 22 regular council meeting of the RM of Alexander, Council passed two resolutions concerning environmental stewardship. The first of which included a ban on single use plastics (shopping bags, plastic cutlery, etc). The resolution read: “WHEREAS it is necessary for the Rural Municipality of Alexander to commit to less waste in our landfills, in conjunction with our new environment protection policies; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipality of Alexander take steps to ban all single use plastics within the next 12 months.”

The second resolution related to climate change and read: “WHEREAS the Rural Municipality of Alexander has committed to a Climate Change Action Plan; AND WHEREAS a plan should also be in place to agree to the complex issues of sustainability and environmental health in a meaningful way; AND WHEREAS future building and development should be green wherever possible; AND WHEREAS education of businesses and individuals should be continuous so as to result in less additions to our landfills; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the RM of Alexander develop a Sustainability and Environmental Health Policy to be used as a guideline in future development and maintenance of our community.”

Councillor Cherhyl Corrie wrote and moved both resolutions. There are few specifics about how it will affect life for the residents in the municipality. Or how much real effect it will have on reducing waste in landfills, but there’s a sense that the municipality had to take a leadership role on a file that many people see as one of humanity’s most pressing issues.

Councillor Corrie says a paradigm shift is needed to address environmental degredation. While it’s uncertain at this stage, how the ban on single use plastics is likely to affect the day to day lives of residents of the municipality, for the most part the resolutions reflect on the operations and management of the municipality itself. “I would like to see all our decisions in the future consider the environment in every aspect – purchasing, building, public works – as part of our routine,” said councillor Corrie. “It isn’t just the single use plastics, it is a life-style change which may be a slow process but we need to start somewhere and I believe that is here and now.”

Corrie says it’s important for the Municipality to take a leadership role in the community. “The action of this Council is intended to be a reflection of the philosophy of the people of Alexander who basically all live near water or farm land,” she explains. “A large number of our population live, work and play along the shores of Lake Winnipeg and see the damage being done to it every day from many sources. Between the phosphorous overload and the introduction of the zebra mussels, people are now starting to realize how what they do matters. You have to make a commitment and start somewhere as we have become so used to doing things the fast way, the easy way that we haven’t really considered the impact those actions have.”

Both of the resolutions mention a goal of reducing waste at municipal landfills, but there’s no clear indication of how much waste will be reduced by these new by-laws. “I am hoping these measures will alert people to the problem and they will take it upon themselves to reduce waste through buying green, look for the green alternative, re-use, recycle, burn, compost,” Corrie said. “These measures shouldn’t have to be legislated. It is a natural thing to look after your family and your family’s home. This earth is your family’s home and we all need to respect it and look after it.”

Given some of her recent initiatives on council, such as the pilot project on cleaning up zebra mussels from beaches in the municipality, this summer, it’s safe to assume environmental stewardship ranks high on Corrie’s list of priorities. But she says it should be important to all of us. “We haven’t figured out a way to move to another planet yet and this one is very sick – but it can be cured if we all work together,” explained Corrie.

“I have never considered myself an environmentalist or a ‘green’ person but I grew up at a time when we brought groceries home in paper shopping bags, ate our vinegar-laden chips from cardboard ‘boats’, used picnic baskets with washable cutlery, served take-out fish and chips in newspaper with wooden forks,” she continued. “We have succumbed to the convenience of plastic without really understanding what the consequences were. All we need to do is look back and figure out what we did before plastics. That’s a start.”