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City Hall Deposition

Deposition to the Public Works Committee, November 12, 2008

By: The Ban the Bag Brigade (Grade 6s at the York School)
Speakers: Kailey Kimsa, David Cash, Zakariya Ali and Sophie Fraser

Hello, my name is Billy, Billy De Bag. I like to call myself a plastic carrying companion and I’ve been a popular shopping accessory since the 70’s, after oil companies discovered a very permanent, very cheap material that they could make from oil, a finite resource. Do you remember when they used to pack groceries in paper (pshh). Now, around 2.5 billion bags are used in Ontario every year and on average, 20 minutes after I am handed to a customer, I will be unceremoniously tossed aside. The nerve! The upside for me is that my buddies and I will almost never completely disappear; it could take almost 1000 years before I’m destroyed.

You see, my life after I’m tossed aside is the real problem. The fact that I almost never break down goes against the natural cycles of the Earth. When I do return to nature and natural ecosystems, I can suffocate animals and my toxic chemicals can poison life and enter the food chain to be passed from animal to animal. They have found plastic bag buddies of mine from the Arctic to the most remote parts of the Pacific to areas close to the Antarctic. We are jokingly, but sadly, called the national flower in some parts of Africa because we are everywhere. What used to be one of plastic’s most treasured attributes, our permanence, now means that the millions of us that sit on the ground not biodegrading collect stagnant water, a perfect breeding ground for many disease-carrying mosquitoes. I clog sewer drains in flood-prone areas and fill North American landfills with tons of waste each year.

What’s worse? Canada only recycles 1-3% of its plastic bags. That means 97-99% of those many billions of plastic bags that are used and tossed aside end up in Canada’s landfills and in our natural environment. San Francisco had tried a city-wide recycling programme but it failed so miserably that they had to think of a very unique new plan.

Which brings me to my final and most devastating (for me, that is) news. Worldwide, I have become enemy number one. Ireland got so fed up with me that they placed a tax on my head and reduced plastic bag use by 90% almost overnight. San Francisco may have banned me from major supermarkets and drugstores, but, despite all my faults, I still have a safe place to lay my head in Toronto, unless City Council stands up for the environment and our children’s future.

My Canadian supporters say that I’m cheap (phuh), they say that I’m convenient but they’ve been kind enough to ignore my indiscretions and never mention them. If people really knew what I’d done to the Earth, they wouldn’t mind bringing a reusable cloth bag with them to grocery stores. When I first came on the scene, the public really resisted me. It took perseverance to get people to stray from their paper bags. My fear now is that perseverance may again prevail, and people will one day say “Do you remember when we used to use plastic bags?”

Final words from Sophie Fraser:

My mom died of leukemia this September. She really liked the Kincardine sunset and she always said that nature was very important because then her children and grandchildren will be able to see how beautiful it is. If we don’t do something about plastic bags now, they will wreck the environment. When I go to camp, I see bags stuck on the tree branches and my camp is in a very remote area. My mom really wanted to preserve what is special about nature. Before she died, she told me it would be a chance of a lifetime for me to speak to City Hall and a chance to help. If I can help convince you to ban plastic bags, this will be the best legacy for my mom.