While Edmonton's single-use item bylaw has not been popular, complaints have decreased since it came into force on July 1, and city council should keep the rules in place, say Taproot's city hall watchers.
"We're talking about hundreds of complaints here, not thousands," Speaking Municipally co-host Mack Male said in Episode 232 of the civic affairs podcast, recorded after city council's urban planning committee received an update.
Most businesses have complied with the bylaw. The most contentious part has been the 15-cent charge for paper bags, which is to go up to 25 cents in the summer of 2024 and has made drive-thru purchases somewhat less convenient. But it will decrease waste, and that's a good thing, said co-host Troy Pavlek.
"Having systems like government say, 'In this entire city, there will be a massive reduction in single-use bags,' that is exactly the systemic change that we have been trying to encourage," he said. "It would be galling to me if council got cold feet on this because a couple people were not used to getting their fries in a bucket."
The city may adjust the bylaw in November, ahead of the federal single-use item rules coming into effect in December.
Pavlek and Male agreed it was a shame the bag fee goes back to the restaurant with no guarantee that it will be used for environmental purposes. "It would be so much better ... if all those things were collected and went to the city to be invested in other sustainability and green initiatives," Male said, noting there is no way for the city to collect that money. (One business owner later pointed out the problems with trying to recoup that fee.)
Pavlek said a recent visit to Wendy's in Spruce Grove, which has no bag fee, persuaded him that it doesn't take long for behaviour to be modified.
"This bylaw has only been in place for three months, and I've already gotten so used to it that it felt abnormal to get a bag with my food," he said. "I suspect most people will acquiesce to this change pretty quickly."
Hear more commentary on Edmonton's single-use bylaw in the Sept. 8 episode of Speaking Municipally. You'll also learn about the long-awaited West Edmonton Mall pedestrian bridge, a hopeful update on the Valley Line LRT, a decision on transit drivers' photo radar tickets, and the delayed opening of a new park.
Taproot co-founder and Speaking Municipally co-host Mack Male will join public historian Lauren Markewicz and community connector Miranda Jimmy at How to Make a National Park, a Let's Find Out live show on Sept. 21.
Photo: A discarded McDonald's bag, which would have cost its recipient 15 cents if acquired in Edmonton after July 1, 2023. (David Maier/Unsplash)