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Single-use bylaw postponed in face of business pressure

“While this timeline may support the Town’s interests for communicating to businesses, it is not suitable for industry given the cost, operational impacts, procurement of products and lack of education and awareness to make effective, successful changes."
Banff Town Hall 1
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – Proposed legislation to reduce single-use items, including a ban on plastic shopping bags, has been put off until mid-February at the request of Banff businesses concerned about timelines and full buy-in.

Council was expected to give second and third reading to the bylaw on Jan. 9, but letters from Banff and Lake Louise Tourism (BLLT), Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA), and Banff Caribou Properties asked for an extension of timelines and removal of some sections of the bylaw.

Administration recommended against postponement of the bylaw, noting discussion on reducing single-use items has been before council many times since 2019 and more than $20,000 had been spent on consultation, including a third-party consultant and internal resources.

“We do know that transitioning will require work for some of our businesses,” said Carla Bitz, environment and sustainability coordinator for the Town of Banff, noting exemptions may be granted in certain cases.

“We also know the pace with which we’re producing single-use waste in this town continuing at that pace is going to make that really difficult for us to achieve our waste diversion targets and make meaningful reductions.”

The proposed new legislation is a key step towards achieving the Town of Banff’s goal to divert 70 per cent of waste from landfill by 2028 and zero waste to landfill by 2050. It is currently proposed to have a July 1 start date.

If passed when it comes back to council for second and third reading on Feb. 13, the bylaw focuses heavily on the overall reduction of single-use items such as grocery bags, straws, containers, cups and cutlery rather than banning one specific material like plastic.

However, the bylaw would specifically ban single-use plastic checkout shopping bags and require businesses to charge a minimum fee of $0.25 for paper bags and $2 for reusable bags.

The proposed bylaw also requires dine-in businesses, including fast-food restaurants, to provide reusable plates, bowls, cups and accessory items like cutlery for food or drinks consumed on the premises.

Mayor Corrie DiManno said the letters are mostly around businesses needing more time to thoroughly review the bylaw, noting first reading was passed by council on Dec. 19 just ahead of the Christmas holidays.

“It’s just about ensuring we’re setting our community up for success when it comes to implementing this,” she said.

“It’s certainly not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. This will be Banff’s future. We just want to get it right.”

BLLHA asked for council to extend the grace period for enforcement of the bylaw to a year from approval and remove the section that requires businesses that do not have consumption on the premises to provide reusables for takeaway services.

The association also suggested the removal of a section that requires any remaining disposable food ware to be recyclable or compostable within Banff’s waste streams, arguing that may be challenging for some businesses and may distract from the intent of the bylaw to reduce single-use items altogether.

Alternatively, BLLHA suggested delaying approval of the bylaw as a whole by one year to allow for a staged and methodical implementation that includes further engagement with the industry to improve the process and buy-in towards further success.

Wanda Bogdane, executive director of BLLHA, said the organization has made a commitment to sustainability programs and efforts through the commercial sector and in the community, adding BLLHA was a founding member of the municipality’s Zero Waste Trailblazers selection committee.

But she said administration’s report to council did not reflect the fulsome feedback reflected through an engagement process from the environmental business leadership working group. In addition, she said the inclusion of many parts of the bylaw contradicts the themes within the feedback provided.

She said the proposed July 1 start date will be tough for businesses.

“While this timeline may support the Town’s interests for communicating to businesses, it is not suitable for industry given the cost, operational impacts, procurement of products and lack of education and awareness to make effective, successful changes,” she said.

Bogdane said the Town of Banff conducted engagement from August to September 2022, with first reading of the bylaw on Dec. 19.

“These timelines were not only compressed, but occurred during times of exceedingly high activity for Banff’s commercial sector, likely impeding the number of businesses engaged and the bandwidth to fully participate,” she said.

“We ask the Town to reconsider its timelines.”