Kamloops city council took a trip around the blue bin on Tuesday afternoon, considering bans to businesses on a wide range of single-use items before finally directing staff to draft a bylaw prohibiting plastic bags from being handed out to customers.
Staff will have until July 9 to draft and submit a bylaw to council for review.
Coun. Dale Bass told reporters she is disappointed council amended her original motion, which would have eliminated plastic straws and cutlery along with plastic bags, opining “we do not need to reinvent the recycling wheel.
“However, having said that, I honestly had not expected cutlery to be there when it was finally tabled,” Bass said. “I wanted it there. I wanted straws there. I don’t understand why we dropped straws. But it’s something and I’ve been saying all along I just wanted us to consider it and get it on the agenda. Then we’ll go from there.”
Consider it council did.
A lengthy list of proposed amendments left reporters and the vote-talliers double-checking the numbers. First at issue was the date at which Bass proposed staff bring the draft bylaw to council the bylaw — May 28 — with proper public consultation among chief concerns.
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce interim executive director Acacia Pangilinan appeared earlier in the meeting, asking council to carefully consider changes and requesting that the timeline be developed alongside the business community.
Coun. Sadie Hunter suggested moving the deadline for the draft bylaw from May to July, noting doing so would give the city extra time to consult with businesses.
Councillors Bass, Arjun Singh and Denis Walsh opposed the amendment, which passed with support from the other five members of council: Mayor Ken Christian and councillors Mike O’Reilly, Kathy Sinclair, Dieter Dudy and Bill Sarai.
Singh wanted more time, perhaps with a fall deadline for staff to draft a bylaw, while Bass and Walsh maintained May should suffice if public consultations followed information from staff.
The second proposed amendment was a call from Dudy to cut out cutlery from the ban. Dudy said he supported elimination of plastic bags, but noted business owners have not yet had a chance to look at alternatives to plastic cutlery.
“Give them time, but put them on notice,” Dudy said.
Singh agreed and added that while the courts have ruled on single-use bags, he feared the city could open itself up to legal issues if it tried to outpace other municipalities on the issue of banning plastic cutlery. He was among the majority — seven, including the mayor — on council to agree to toss that idea in the garbage. Bass and Walsh were opposed to the amendment and wanted plastic cutlery to remain under the ban.
The next plastic to drop was the straw. As Singh called for a notice of motion to remove plastic straws from the proposed ban, the mayor, in support of that third amendment, had the gallery thirsty following a lengthy debate on a sunny April afternoon.
“I don’t want Kamloops residents to be without milkshakes for the summer of 2019,” Christian said, questioning a lack of alternative options to plastic straws and prompting Sinclair to provide proof to the contrary, pulling out from some mysterious location around the horseshoe a reusable straw. She noted the ban would not come into effect until the fall or later, thereby saving the summer of milkshakes in the Tournament Capital.
“We’re talking about an inevitable phasing out,” she said.
Elimination of straws from the ban passed about as narrowly as a triple-thick milkshake through a plastic straw: by a vote of 5-4. Christian and councillors O’Reilly, Singh, Walsh and Sarai voted in favour of leaving straws outside of a ban, while Bass, Sinclair, Hunter and Dudy wanted to retain the straw prohibition.
Additionally, a proposal to add Styrofoam to the ban didn’t make it past the time it takes to order takeout sushi. Walsh could only persuade Bass to vote in favour of such an addition, with the other seven councillors voting against.
Just when one thought council had a final motion on the table, O’Reilly blew up the blue bin, calling a ban a “tax on retail, small business” and repeated an earlier concern from Sarai over bylaws without teeth.
O’Reilly also raised the issue of commercial recycling as a more impactful initiative. He said his business, Cafe Motivo downtown, banned plastic bags last week and removed plastic straws last summer, only to hear concerns from seniors and disabled people.
A larger issue, he said, are the 500 plastic four-litre jugs of milk per month his business would toss in the garbage if not for proactive recycling. O’Reilly called for staff to send to the civic operations committee the issue of examining all single-use plastics and the possibility of implementing a commercial recycling program, with council unanimously supporting that motion.