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MUN student pushing to get plastic bags out of North West River

North West River native Mckenzie Hutchings is hoping the town will follow in the footsteps of other Labrador communities and ban single-use plastic bags. Contributed
North West River native Mckenzie Hutchings is hoping the town will follow in the footsteps of other Labrador communities and ban single-use plastic bags. Contributed - Contributed
NORTH WEST RIVER, N.L. —

In April, Newfoundland and Labrador made national headlines when the government announced it would ban single-use plastic bags. The government said, however, that it could take six months to a year for a full ban to be implemented.

For some people, that was too long a wait.

North West River native Mckenzie Hutchings has just completed her third year at Memorial University. She is majoring in geography and is earning a diploma in environmental humanities. She has been spending part of her summer vacation circulating a petition asking North West River businesses to voluntarily stop using plastic bags as soon as possible.

“It’d be nice if they did it,” said Hutchings. "Regardless, business owners aren’t going to have a choice anyways. But it’d be nicer to hop on the bandwagon, get the ball rolling earlier – it’ll get people used to it. You don’t have to wait until January, there’s no reason to wait.”

Hutchings was inspired back in June when Happy Valley-Goose Bay announced they weren’t going to wait for the provincial ban to kick in. As of Jan. 1, 2020, single-use plastic bags will be banned in the community.

“I seen a Facebook post that the town council had made a decision to ban it in Goose Bay,” said Hutchings. “So, I thought if they can do it, we can get around to doing it too. We’re a much smaller community, so it should be much easier.

“My best bet was to get a list of names of supporters, bring that directly to local business owners, instead of the town having to create a bylaw, because the bylaw would be a little more work and it forces the businesses into it, instead of them doing it voluntarily, which is much nicer.”

Hutchings is passionate about a plastic bag ban because she's worried about the effect plastics are having on human and environmental health.

It’ll break down into microplastics, which are ingested by animals, ingested by us,” said Hutchings. "It’s in toothpaste, it’s in most tap water; little bits of microplastic are everywhere… that’s due to plastics breaking down but never disappearing.

“Every time you grab a plastic bag at the store, it’s going to be here forever.”

Hutchings has received more than 100 signatures of support and finds there has been little pushback to her initiative.

“Very, very little (disagreement) – it’s been very minor. Everybody’s pretty much been onboard. We have signatures from people who are 80-plus, right down to teenagers in our community.”

She will soon be taking the petition to local business owners and discussing the issue of plastic bags with them.

“Hopefully it won’t be long, and we’ll be switched to paper.”

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