Students help write zero waste ordinance

A group of students is tackling the task of writing a zero waste ordinance for the city of Langley.

One year after a group of youth leaders convinced the city of Langley to declare a climate emergency, another group of students is tackling the task of writing a zero waste ordinance for the city.

During a city council meeting Monday night, Councilmember Rhonda Salerno introduced the ordinance that she has been helping middle school students to write. They are planning to lead a presentation about it at the next council meeting, which is slated for Monday, June 6.

So far, students – with the help of community partners and city staff – have researched and learned about the importance of reducing single-use plastics, conducted a study examining zero waste ordinances from other municipalities and developed and conducted surveys for the public, lodging establishments, businesses and restaurants in Langley. They have also provided businesses with a resource sheet listing compostable items for purchase.

“Toward this end, their ordinance will set forth that commercial establishments in the City of Langley will be required to use only compostable products when providing take-out food and straws to their customers,” Salerno wrote in a memo to the council. “It will also require lodging establishments to use only refillable toiletries dispensers for their guests rather than small, individual plastic containers.”

Langley’s citizen-led Climate Crisis Action Committee has written a letter of support for the students.

The middle school students’ climate-related action is occurring roughly a year after United Student Leaders, a group of mostly high school students, urged the city council to pass a resolution declaring a climate emergency. The resolution was adopted June 7, 2021.

During the May 16 city council meeting, Salerno said the students have received positive remarks from Langley businesses. Many of the lodging establishments have already transitioned to using refillable dispensers for toiletries, with some exemptions for ADA compliance.

“We are jumping just before this is gonna go statewide,” she said. “We’re just a little ahead of the game and small communities like ours that are doing this kind of thing supports the whole state in doing these kinds of ordinances.”

Councilmember Craig Cyr asked if Airbnb hosts have been contacted about the ordinance. Salerno said she did not know how to reach them. Cyr suggested asking the city’s director of community planning to send out a survey.

The council will have the opportunity to vote on the ordinance at its next meeting.