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Plastics Free PEC suggests residents take 30-day challenge, then keep it up

In April, beginning the group Plastic Free PEC were: Debbie Rankin, Camille Bettonville, Julie Miller, Kate MacNaughton & daughter, Mayor Steve Ferguson, (a passerby), Sarah Doiron, Sam Toth, Toby Toth, Sofia Faga and Aaron Miller. Jeanie Perruzza photo

The County’s new Plastic Free PEC group hopes residents will take on a 30-day challenge to eliminate using five everyday plastics.

“Every piece of plastic ever produced, still exists,” said Julie Miller, Plastic Free PEC member with Debbie Rankin presenting their challenge idea to council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday afternoon.

The group of individuals with similar concerns came together a few months ago.

“Our goal was modest. We simply wanted to change the world,” said Miller. “We since scaled that back and just want to change Prince Edward County.”

They want residents to swap out five everyday items – including plastic throw-away water bottles, grocery and retail bags, produce bags, straws and coffee and fast food soft drink cups that cannot be recycled because they have a plastic inner lining.

“It’s not about an individual making a thousand changes. It’s about a thousand individuals making a single change,” said Miller.

This week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021 which could include items such as straws, cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates, cutlery and balloon sticks. The plan is part of a larger strategy to tackle plastic pollution following the model chosen by the European Union. It would be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they’re manufacturing and putting out into the world.

Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates Canadians throw away more than 34 million plastic bags every day – most end in landfill and take as long as 1,000 years to decompose.

“Try to go plastic-free for 30 days and see how simple swapping out five items can be and how much of a difference it makes in your personal recycling box. If you can change a habit for 30 days, why not make it a lifetime?” said Miller.

The group would also like to move forward on fundraising to purchase mobil water fill stations to be used around the County at events and placed in strategic spots on main streets.

“Eventually we would like to purchase permanent water fill units to be installed throughout PEC. Let’s bring back water fountains.”

The groups initial plans include encouraging residents, businesses and community groups to reduce single use plastics. It wants the municipality to eliminate plastic water bottles in all municipal buildings and help educate the public about reduction strategies.

Council will receive a report on making it a project of community interest, which could help lead to obtaining grant funding from outside sources.

The two shared statistics stating Ontario sends a billion water bottles to landfill every year. On average, just 10 per cent of plastics are recyled due to several reasons – including improper sorting, items not clean or able to be recycled.

“Continuing on with the scourge that is water bottles, the average municipal water filtration plant tests for over 300 contaminants and is tested over 100,000 times a year. A water bottling plant falls under the food and drug act and tests for under 10 contaminants (exact information difficult to find) and is federally-inspected once every three years.

“It is over 2,000 times more energy intestive to create a water bottle than to fill a glass including the one litre of water used to fill the bottle, it takes an additional three litres of water in the manufacturing process to produce that one litre bottle.

“Recently, cheaper oil prices means it’s more cost effective to produce new plastic than to recycle. Recycling companies are paid by weight.

Plastic Free PEC expects to launch its full campaign on Canada Day with a booth on Main Street, Picton and hopes to have its first portable water fill station at that event.

Not knowing of the PEC Plastic Free deputation, resident Suzanne O’Connor had planned a deputation to ask the municipality to become an example to reduce plastic using the fourth R – ‘refuse’ combined with the Reduce, Re-use and Recycle motto.

However, since the time she booked her deputation she learned her idea to create a bylaw to allow consumers to use their own containers at restaurants for takeout and grocery store deli counters would be met with difficulty due to public health concerns about bacteria and viruses.

She instead supported the PEC Plastic Free stance and may join that group.

Filed Under: Local News

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