Three distinct views were offered on the issue of single-use plastics that was recently returned to the forefront by the Trudeau Government.
MP Blake Richards believes banning single-use plastic products won't get to the root of the problem. Mayor Jeff Genung favours a national ban on single-use plastic bags and straws. Local advocate Jade Janzen says the town shouldn't wait and move now on banning the bags and straws.
The Trudeau Government announced its ambition to have a nationwide single-use ban in place as early as 2021 where feasible. It intends to take additional unspecified approaches to reducing pollution from plastic products and packaging.
Whether or not the government follows through or even remains in power, Mitford student Jade Janzen says the time for Cochrane to act is now.
"It might not happen, so I will still be pushing for Cochrane to ban plastic single-use plastic bags and straws," says Janzen.
"In my opinion, I think it would be better for Cochrane to ban single-use plastic bags and straws first so people can get used to it before it is banned federally."
Even though we are landlocked, she says microplastics are impacting our environment, pointing to a study completed on the Bow River by Dr. Laura Coristine.
"There are microplastics in the Bow River," says Janzen. "This issue isn't just about the ocean or coastal towns and cities. Plastic affects us everywhere, even if we're landlocked."
Through her "Lives with Less Plastic" lobby, Janzen has been pushing the cause here. It hasn't simply been a case of lobbying council and local businesses. She has an ongoing educational component and she has taken some grassroots initiatives.
Among those efforts are locating t-shirts reusable bags crafted by Janzen and a fellow Mitford leadership student at Two Pharmacy for people to borrow. The Mitford school donated the t-shirts, teacher Scott Roen provided the stand and Reid Kimmett helped make it possible at the pharmacy.
She has also made numerous presentations to Cochrane elementary and middle school students and this spring spoke at an Inside Education conference in Canmore.
She has an online petition and regularly updates her Facebook Page "Liveswithlessplastic."
Mayor Jeff Genung says he was pleased to see the federal government position itself for a national ban because it makes more sense.
"My feeling is we could have an impact as a municipality, but to really have an impact on the environment, doing it as a nation has much more weight."
"My hope is it is something that is unilateral so it will be consistent from municipality-to-municipality and province-to-province so one province wouldn't have an advantage or a differential over another and likewise with communities."
Genung says he has heard from a number of students on the issue.
"I've been getting a few letters and emails from students like Jade with a similar message and push."
He says the town is currently in a holding pattern on the issue that Janzen brought to town council on Oct. 22, 2018.
Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards says what the Trudeau Government has suggested is unrealistic, especially the timelines. He says he's already heard concerns from medical professionals who use several single-use plastics. He also points out many First Nations do not have clean drinking water and heavily use single-use plastics.
"I don't believe we're anywhere near being able to move to that spot," says Richards.
He believes Canada should first tackle the major issue of ensuring the recyclables we sort are actually being recycled. He says reports indicated up to 90 per cent of recyclables aren't.
"Wouldn't the better solution be to try and address what is the problem is there? How do we make sure what we think we're recycling is actually being recycled? If we improve our outcome there it would be a huge step forward and maybe we wouldn't have to look at this type of venture in the first place."
Yet he doesn't discourage people from reducing their use of single plastics and says he makes this a personal practice. He is also encouraged by restaurants and retail businesses taking measures.
"Anything that encourages this is a good thing, whether that be on the individual level or on the community level. We should all be trying to do our part on that but at the end of the day if our big problem is that a lot of our recyclables actually aren't being recycled, I think that's probably where government at all levels could have a far bigger on the situation by finding ways to address those problems."