A climate advocacy group in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is asking the local farmers' market to do away with single-use plastic.
“Climate Action Now Network (CANN) is trying to help reduce the town’s carbon footprint. While TBM is in the process of doing big things by updating its official plan and going through the process of becoming more sustainable, we want to help make small changes, which can add up to reductions in our CO2 emissions,” said Kim Harris, member of CANN.
CANN recently sent correspondence to TBM council in an effort to see the local farmers’ market, which uses town-owned land, reduce its use of single-use plastic.
“Since the weekly market is held on municipal property it seems to CANN members that it would be reasonable to request some accommodations to the climate emergency the town has declared. It would also be in keeping with the current ban on single-use plastics in town facilities. For this reason, we ask that the farmers’ market be declared a plastic-free zone,” stated the correspondence.
In 2020, TBM implemented a "voluntary ban" on single-use plastics on town-owned properties.
A voluntary ban is basically a request from the town to all stakeholders including the business community, residents and visitors to consider opportunities for the reduction of single-use plastic wherever possible.
This resolution does not mean that the town is prescriptively banning the use of single-use plastics. In addition, this statement does not require local businesses to eliminate single-use plastics from their operations, however it encourages local businesses to continue their commitment to sustainable environmental initiatives.
Ron Barnett, manager of the Thornbury and Flesherton farmers’ markets said this request is likely something that will have to wait until next season.
“To put an immediate ban on single-use plastics would be an unreasonable thing to implement in the middle of the season,” Barnett said.
“Many vendors have already switched to paper packaging and bag alternatives. But others will phase out their use this year, as some have already bought their supplies in bulk at the beginning of the season,” he continued.
The CANN group says that many baked goods at the market are currently packaged in plastic, which they would like to see be sold in compostable cardboard boxes or paper bags, “instead of plastic that will be in our landfill for up to 500 years.”
“Produce can easily be put right into reusable bags people bring themselves, as is now done at our local Foodland. To help make this transition, CANN will provide a box of recycled, reusable bags that may be taken for free,” the group noted.
Harris says that the CANN group has not had any direct conversations with the farmers’ market vendors, but adds that the request is not intended to impose any hardship.
“We’re hoping that everyone can do their bit in trying to reduce single-use plastics in TBM. Our landfill is nearing capacity,” Harris added.
According to Catherine Clark, executive director for Farmers’ Markets Ontario, there is no overarching policy on single-use plastic at farmers markets in Ontario and regulatory decisions come from various jurisdictions, such as municipalities.
“We are not aware of any farmers’ markets not allowing plastic bags from vendors but again that would be the decision of market management if there is. Markets can decide to implement if they wish to go into that direction,” Clark said.
In terms of vendor options for suppliers, Clark again said this was something that should be sourced at a local level.
“We recommend that markets partner with local businesses to bulk purchase and/or sponsor the cost of reusable bags as an alternative,” Clark added.
Barnett concluded that he and the market vendors will do their best to reduce the use of plastic at the market this season, however any major shifts in packaging and supplies will likely not be implemented until next year.
“If we can start off next year with vendors fully aware and measures and supports in place, it shouldn’t be a big financial burden and would give everyone enough time to plan ahead,” Barnett explained. “We look forward to working with the municipality and learning about supports to help put the plan into action.”
The Thornbury Farmers’ Market runs on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Smith Memorial Park between the TBM town hall and Beaver Valley Outreach on Highway 26.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca