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It is time for all retail stores in Yellowknife, and across Canada, to increase the cost of plastic bags from 25 cents to 50.

This needs to happen immediately. And if consumer habits do not change within two months with more people switching to reusable bags, increase the price another 25 cents until the cost of plastic bags is the same as material ones – if not more. While many consumers have stopped using plastic out of a concern for the environment, there are still far too many who ignore the threat they pose.

This is not a convenience. It is a matter of survival. If someone shoots and kills another, they call that murder. But if someone throws a plastic bag into the garbage which ends up in the water eventually killing the land, animals and people, we turn a blind eye. Collective denial. But the results are the same. Someone or something dies.

In 2007, IKEA was the first to start charging for plastic bags; five cents each. And as we know, the price at most Canadian retailers has climbed to 25 cents except for Wal-Mart which still keeps their prices low and gives small bags away.

In June it was reported that as many as 15 billion plastic bags are used every year in Canada alone and close to 57 million straws are used daily. Yet we know the effects plastic is having on our marine animals and that plastic microbes are polluting all of our water bodies and impacting everything.

A sperm whale in Scotland showed up dead on the beach in early December with 100 kilograms of plastic in its body, including ropes, plastic cups, gloves, straws, packing straps and tubing; in March, another young whale washed up in the Philippines with 88 kg of plastic in its belly – researchers say it probably starved to death from just eating plastic, sans nutrition.

Last November, scientists found that seven beluga whales harvested by Inuvialuit hunters in the Far North had microplastics in their digestive tracts … like some deadly virus, it’s spreading everywhere.

Montreal became the first major city in this country to ban retailers from using thinner plastic bags such as those used by Wal-Mart on Jan. 1, 2018 and late last month, Vancouver said it too would be banning plastic bags, straws and other single-use items.

In the run up to the last federal election, Justin Trudeau said in June that his party would implement a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021.

It is not enough to say we recycle. In Canada, for example, only nine per cent of plastic waste is recycled. The remainder, even though dutifully placed in blue bins, ends up at the landfill or sent to Third World countries where they burn it for a price. They may burn it, but we are responsible for our plastic ending up there.

The government should not have to implement a ban. Our own moral compass should be pointing us in the right direction.

Wal-Mart, Trevor’s, Glen’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, and every other retailer selling plastic bags for a measly 25 cents, you are morally obligated to raise the price of this product to 50 cents immediately and to continue increasing it so it is no longer attractive to use them. If consumers whine, tell them it is for the collective good. Do something the planet will thank you for.

We need to be bold in this action and everyone needs to participate if we hope to turn this sinking ship around. Koala bears don’t have to go extinct because of our slothful actions anymore.

And for those who care about the planet and with time on their hands, maybe we could start a sewing group making reusable bags from discarded clothing thus diverting even more fodder from the landfill. The money raised could be used to further local environmental efforts. I’ll help!

We can do this. We can put Yellowknife on the map as one of the green cities in Canada and be proud of our legacy.

We don’t need grand plans to improve the planet’s dismal situation; just a whole lot of people doing the right thing.

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