Leave it to Tiny to fight as leaders of the environment once again, where the battleground is single-use plastics, and the enemy is time.
Public works staff provided a report on single-use plastics, such as cutlery, creamers, cups, and bottles, and laid out the feasibility of Tiny removing their harmful usage from the environment. While some single-use plastics are recyclable, a potential for the products to end up in landfills and waterways as microplastic pollution is of great concern.
While the township was following in the federal government’s plan to ban all single-use plastics by 2021, COVID-19 delayed that implementation until a later date. Currently, Tiny uses single-use plastics at township events and in their own facilities.
Several options were recommended, including a ban on the products at township events. That wasn’t enough for council, who sought stronger measures.
Deputy mayor Steffen Walma spoke first to the report, providing a foreshadowing of the inevitable.
“Landfill capacities in the County of Simcoe are estimated to run out by 2030,” Walma stated. “We have three existing landfills; two of those will be done in 2024 and 2025. That’s not very far out.
“Based on things that happened right here in our backyard with Site 41, there was a policy made that said no more landfills will be created in the County of Simcoe.”
Walma continued by saying that garbage would be shipped out of the township once landfills were full to as-of-yet unknown destinations, “but it’s going to cost money and it’s going to have an environmental impact.”
“I think we have an opportunity here to limit our single-use plastics in the municipality,” Walma said. “I love the idea that if they had it at a voluntary basis that everyone would comply, but they won’t. I personally think we have to step up and say, 'We’re not doing it.' Just ban it outright.”
Coun. Tony Mintoff also voted for a strong stance against the continued usage of single-use plastics within township facilities and events.
“I think this is an opportunity for us to walk the talk,” Mintoff said toward the township’s initiative. “Regardless of what the federal government does, we know we’re going to be there at some point.”
With a background in the food industry, Coun. Gibb Wishart supported a total ban while adding that any rentals of facilities such as the Tiny Township community centre should be informed that single-use plastics are not allowed.
“All of our facilities that we rent, the tenants would need to be governed by our policy, and we need to broadcast the fact that we’ve done this. So let Penetang, Midland, Tay, and the county know that that’s our position,” said Wishart.
“People just don’t realize how important it is,” stressed Wishart. “They (businesses) say ‘Well what are we going to do with our grocery bags?’ and I say send them back. The grocery stores will hear that customers in Tiny are going to become a little more difficult to deal with, and they’ll have to accommodate. So we’ll be the first ones to kick the ball, and we’ll let the others keep it rolling.”
Coun. Cindy Hastings agreed wholeheartedly with a total ban.
“I think it’s clear, we need to be leaders,” Hastings said. “We were the first blue community (in Ontario), I believe.”
Despite adamant support toward a full ban on single-use plastics in Tiny facilities and events, with council looking to amend the staff report for stricter implementation, it was director of public works Tim Leitch who urged council to consider how complicated a total ban would be to enact.
“When you talked of product availability, banning from other businesses; I’m glad we’re just looking internally because when we start going outside of our own business, that’s a whole different animal that… I’m not even sure what’s involved with something like that,” Leitch admitted.
“I think we need to be cautious on the timing, and I know we want to be leaders, that’s great. But even other levels of government are understanding of how difficult this is right now. So we’ll take a look at it, and include facilities and events because that’s not a problem," he said.
Leitch’s advice spoke to council, who then voted for a staff report for the amended recommendation of a single-use plastic ban at township events and facilities be looked into.
Schedules for Tiny meetings are available on the council section of the township website. Meetings are streamed live and archived on the township of Tiny YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca