BOW VALLEY – Formed from a slurry of various hydrocarbons and able to be shaped into lightweight and strong materials, plastics are a miracle product of the modern age, but more often than not we turn it into plastic straws and lids and then throw them out.
Fortunately, that is changing as a growing amount of companies and organizations in the Bow Valley and globally are looking to reduce the amount of single use plastics that end up in landfills and the ocean every year.
The Bear Minimum in Banff is one such organization dedicated to reducing the environmental impacts of single use plastics. Organizer Emma Murrell-Orgill started the group last November after arriving in Banff from Australia.
“I started holding biweekly meetings, and it was getting a lot of interest and everyone was really excited, so we came up with our goals. That we are going to create more plastic awareness, in single use plastic. Get the community and businesses aware and show them alternatives rather than just say, ‘no, you can’t use that, no you can’t use these,’ we would just give them alternatives,” said Murrell-Orgill.
Murrell-Orgill studied marine biology back in Australia and the amount of plastics that end in the oceans is troubling. She started the Bear Minimum to help with education as well as alternative ways to reduce the amount of single use plastics that are thrown away in Banff.
“I’m one of those people, that when I get passionate and interested in something I’m full steam ahead,” said Murrell-Orgill.
The Bear Minimum is slated to appear before the Banff town council on July 16 and present a five-minute delegation presentation about how the national park and town can become more plastic aware. For her this could take the form of a bag ban, or reward programs to incentivize the reduction of single use plastics.
“Look around, it’s so beautiful, and it just surprises me that we don’t have these things in place to keep our area more beautiful… We want to keep our parks beautiful and how are we doing that in terms of plastic use, there’s nothing set in stone,” said Murrell-Orgill.
The Bear Minimum isn’t the only game in town when it comes to reducing single use plastics however. The Straws Sucks campaign has achieved success in getting restaurants to eliminate the throw away plastic straws offered to customers.
It’s movements such as the Bear Minimum and Straws Suck, as well as legislation being passed that are getting cooperate giants to take notice and switch themselves to more environmentally responsible options.
Starbucks recently announced that they were phasing out the usage of plastic straws and McDonald’s in the U.K. is also moving away from single use plastic straws and lids.
More locally, Mt. Norquay announced that they were shifting away from the single use plastic straws and cutlery and will be switching to alternatives. For Murrell-Orgill, large corporations moving away from plastic use is an important first step, but not the end of road.
“The corporations, that’s going to be a very slow process. I see the Bear Minimum as being sort of the ground work, the soldiers on the pavement pushing it a little further,” said Murrell-Orgill. “I believe that the Bear Minimums job is to let people know that it’s easy, it’s possible and that we are here to help make it easy.”