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Plastic bag ban halted during COVID-19 emergency

Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 at 2:00 am MDT

PHOTO. RMWB Councillor Mike Allen introduced a motion calling for a halt to the bylaw enforcing a ban on single-use plastic bags in the region to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect service industry workers and residents. MYMCMURRAY/File photo

RMWB Council shelved its single-use plastic shopping bag ban for now.

Mayor and Councillors voted to temporarily suspend the motion for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Councillor Mike Allen introduced the motion at their meeting on March 24.

He spoke about grocery stores providing plastic bags to customers to stop the spread of the virus and protect staff.

“Just stopping the enforcement of this [bylaw] permits the use of the plastic bags, which won’t carry any residual contamination on them.”

Allen said he learned of a study in the Journal of Environmental Health in 2018.

It stated unwashed reusable bags are at greater risk of cross-contamination from bacteria and viruses not unlike COVID-19.

Save-on-Foods has 178 grocery stores in Western Canada, including three in Fort McMurray.

Based in Langley, B.C., the store announced they provide plastic bags to all its stores and suspend its bottle return service.

Darrell Jones, President of Save-On-Foods, said the health and safety of employees and customers is their number one priority.

“Both our team members and customers have expressed concern about bottle returns and in using reusable bags at this time and we want to do everything we can to put them at ease.”

Jones also said they currently dedicate the 7:00 a.m. shopping hour at their stores for seniors and vulnerable people.

Allen said stores like Save-On-Foods would reserve the right not to handle reusable bags, as they would provide the plastic bag option.

Once the region is clear from the public health emergency, the RMWB Council would require another motion to reinstate the bylaw.

Council also discussed the 17-part motion Mayor Scott introduced in response to COVID-19.