Even Banff National Park, one of the most pristine and greenest locations on Earth, isn’t immune to being wasteful.
A few ugly images that come to mind are fast food garbage spilling out of trash bins at Cascade Ponds, plastic bags floating beneath the surface of Lake Minnewanka like synthetic jellyfish, and the famed photograph of a wolf carrying a plastic water bottle in its jaws.
Unfortunately, what is seen is only one part of the global issue.
But regardless if harmful single-use plastic trash is bobbing up-and-down the Bow River or washing up on shorelines elsewhere, the mass production of single-use items is already a disastrous problem that many are trying to overturn before we're all buried neck-deep in it.
It's great to see levels of government, from municipal up to federal, take action and start putting the pollution problem in-check.
Next week, a new bylaw could be approved in Banff that will reduce businesses' single-use items like straws, cups and utensils and an outright ban on plastic checkout bags. If passed by council, the new bylaw would come into effect July 1.
The bylaw would also make it mandatory for dine-in restaurants, including fast food places, to provide reusable plates and utensils for customers.
One would hope all Banff businesses to be fully supportive of an initiative that aims to divert 70 per cent of waste from landfill by 2028 and zero waste to landfill by 2050.
But regardless of the potential rule being implemented, living in an area that prides itself on how green it is, a hope is that businesses, and the community as a whole, are already taking the initiative and leadership role and practicing ways to reduce single-use item waste.
Even though the bylaw is not specifically aiming at plastics, but more of a complete reduction of single-use products that end up in the landfill, there are reasons why plastics are harmful to humans, wildlife, and the environment.
Humankind has been using what are considered modern plastics for about 115 years – first invented in 1907.
A federal government statement said that up to 15 billion single-use plastic checkout bags are used yearly. Worldwide, that number skyrockets to about 500 billion on an annual basis. Some research suggests that the decomposing of plastic in landfills can take from a few decades to hundreds of years.
According to Plastic Oceans, some reports suggest that half of the 380 million tonnes of plastic produced annually is for single-use purposes.
These are some reasons that in December 2022, the Canadian government prohibited the manufacture and import of sales for many single-use plastics including checkout bags, stir sticks and foodservice ware. In three years, a ban on the sale for export will be in place as well.
The Town of Banff has taken the first step toward reducing single-use products.
The Outlook hopes the trend continues within our community, across Canada, and around the world.