Baker Lake has banned the use of single-use plastic bags in an effort to tackle its growing waste management issues.
Bylaw 236 passed unanimously after its final reading on June 3. It “prohibits the provision, distribution, and sale of single-use shopping bags by retail establishments.”
The maximum fine for failing to adhere to the new regulation is $10,000.
“When we look at our dump, the fence is half white because of shopping bags stuck in the fence. You go out hunting and fishing there’s all kinds of bags,” senior administrative officer Sheldon Dorey told Kivalliq News. “Council thought this would be the best way to deal with this.”
According to Dorey, council has been debating whether to prohibit retailers from offering plastic bags ever since members of the public started raising the issue last year.
“People in the community had some concerns about the amount of waste, in particular plastic bags,” he said.
The hamlet offered the opportunity for businesses and community members to weigh in on the bylaw after it received first and second reading in January. No responses were received, however.
Dorey said the hamlet has sent out letters to retailers since the bylaw was passed. Although some were surprised, they accept the new law.
“I think the retail establishments are OK with it,” he said.
Retailers can request a four-month grace period to allow them to transition. After that period is over, enforcement will begin.
“If a retail establishment six months from now is contravening the bylaw and we talked to them about it, the fine could rise up to $10,000,” Dorey said. “No one wants to go that route.”
Dorey said local residents take pride in trying to keep the land clean, with several community cleanups scheduled every year. However, with the high number of plastic bags in town, it always ends up being a losing battle.
“This year we spent a lot of time and energy cleaning up the dump and landfill and it’s already full of plastic,” he said.
The hamlet has also been looking at other ways to reduce waste in the community. Baker Lake recently began a battery collection program and has been trying to better organize and get rid of its scrap metal with the help of mining company Agnico Eagle.
“We’re just trying to make a difference,” said Dorey.