By Jenn Watt
Published March 5, 2019
Awareness of the importance of eliminating single-use plastics has been building in Haliburton.
Between conversations at council tables, strategizing among environmental groups and changes made at local businesses, there is a sense that people are taking the issue seriously and are willing to step up.
What will be crucial in the months and years to come is that the wider population support the efforts to change and embrace alternatives to plastic bags, water bottles and take-out containers.
Far from the image many of us have of Canadians dutifully depositing our recyclables in the Blue Box each week, according to Environmental Defence, only 11 per cent of plastics in Canada get recycled. Our major waterways bear the brunt of much of our discarded plastic, with eight million tonnes of plastic dumped in the ocean each year.
“Studies have found that 90 per cent of seabirds have plastic in their guts,” Environmental Defence’s plastics report reads. “One in three sea turtles and more than half of all whale and dolphin species have eaten plastic.”
In the fall, a couple from Bayfield, Ont., came to Haliburton to speak about how their Lake Huron-based community is working toward improving water quality and putting a dent in plastic waste.
Their group, Blue Bayfield, took a grassroots approach, going to church groups, youth organizations, businesses and government, asking them to consider phasing out disposable plastic from their operations. They fundraised and installed five water refill stations around the village and purchased 2,000 reusable water bottles to give out to the public.
Bayfield has also received the Plastic-Free Coastline Community designation from Surfers Against Sewage, which specifies that council endorses the campaign, local businesses remove plastic items, and that the village holds two clean-ups a year.
These are things we in Haliburton can do and are already doing.
The municipality of Dysart et al has planned to install several water stations, and as long as they are not removed from the budget, they would offer a real alternative for people looking to reduce their waste. Fleming College and the high school have built-in water stations and the Rails End Gallery recently purchased a portable unit for events.
The municipality is taking the lead by working to eliminate single-use water bottles in its facilities and among its staff. The lessons they learn along the way will be instructive for other municipalities going forward.
Several businesses have joined in, replacing plastic straws with paper ones, choosing compostable take-out containers or, in the case of the farmers’ market, loaning out plates or cups and asking people to bring them back.
And Environment Haliburton has been educating the public, hosting speakers and brainstorming sessions.
There’s no doubt we’ve got momentum happening.
The task now is to spread the word. Blue Bayfield’s success has come from presenting alternatives, educating the public, and conducting a strong, positive educational campaign to get people on board.
Haliburton can easily do the same.
Need some motivation? Ray Letheren of Blue Bayfield is speaking at the U-Links Celebration of Research on Saturday, March 23 at the Minden Hills Community Centre. The event is from 1 to 4 p.m.