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Myth-busting on proposed single-use products bylaw

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Several items which appeared in the Times over the past week contained some misleading information about the scope of the proposed bylaw to regulate single-use plastic bags and other harmful single-use products in Fort Frances.

I know that was not the newspaper's intention, but I fear it has led to some confusion in the community.

First, I want to be clear that this effort is entirely transparent and is following the usual council process.

The text of the bylaw has been publicly available since it was drafted and submitted to the town clerk and local media last week.

It has also been published online since that time, including on the council website.

My remarks to the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce have also been published in full. You can read my remarks and the bylaw at www.douglasjudson.ca/media.

I would like clarify details which may have left some mistaken impressions.

Here are answers to the top questions I have received:

1. What does the proposed bylaw ban?

The bylaw, as currently drafted, restricts the distribution of three things by businesses:

  • single-use plastic checkout bags;
  • foam containers that are used to package prepared foods and beverages (such as styrofoam cups and takeout containers); and
  • single-use plastic straws given out with beverages (more on this below).

There is no ban on the sale of these products.

You will still be able to purchase packages of plastic garbage bags, drinking straws, and styrofoam cups (though I hope you will begin to look at alternatives).

There is also no ban on plastic cups whatsoever.

2. What are people going to use to pack their groceries or other purchases in?

Retailers will have to decide what alternatives they wish to provide.

Paper bags and empty boxes are an obvious choice for many (in fact, some local retailers are already phasing out plastic in favour of paper).

Reusable bags are also allowed. A reusable bag is defined as a bag with handles that is designed to be used multiple times and is capable of being washed or disinfected.

This definition is deliberately broad in order to allow a wide range of alternatives for consumers and businesses.

3. Are there any exceptions to the ban on single-use plastic bags?

Yes. The bylaw contains a list of exceptions where single-use plastic bags are permitted.

The exceptions include what you might expect—such as the use of single-use plastic bags for packaging loose produce or candy, or for disposing of pet waste.

4. What businesses does the bylaw apply to?

The proposed bylaw applies to all businesses operating in Fort Frances, including the “big box” retailers. Everyone will be participating on equal footing.

5. Some people living with disabilities need plastic straws to dine out. Will these be available?

I am committed to supporting the full participation of people of all abilities in our community.

For that reason, I will bring forward a small amendment which, if adopted, will create an exception in the bylaw so that plastic straws can be made available on request.

This will help achieve our goal of reducing their use and disposal, while allowing those who need them for any reason to have access.

It will also ensure that our bylaw and local businesses remain in step with their accessibility and human rights obligations.

6. When will these new rules come into effect?

The bylaw, if passed in its current form, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021 so that local businesses and consumers have a year to adapt and make use of any existing inventories.

7. What will the town do to inform the community of these new rules?

As with many bylaws and waste management initiatives, I anticipate that if the bylaw is passed, the town will release communications materials in 2020 to make sure residents and local businesses are equipped to make this transition.

8. Have you consulted with local businesses and other organizations?

Yes. I have been talking to local stakeholders about this for over six months.

Among those, I have met with the BIA and the Chamber of Commerce on three occasions.

In addition, I have reached out to various other local organizations focused on environmentalism and conservation.

9. What if the provincial or federal government imposes their own ban on these products?

The bylaw contains a clause which requires it to be brought back before council for reconsideration in the event that another level of government puts in place a regulation of similar effect.

10. What can I do if I have questions or concerns?

Contact me at djudson@fortfrances.ca. You can also reach out to any other member of council.

At this time, it is expected that the bylaw will be up for a vote at our council meeting on Dec. 9.

If passed in its current form, the bylaw will not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2021.

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