Giovanna Brunetta loads up her vehicle with groceries, using a reusable bag, after shopping at a Saanich grocery store. Local efforts to ban plastic bags received a boost after Victoria announced that it plans to ban plastic bags by summer 2018. Black Press File

Saanich applauds Victoria’s decision to stuff plastic bags

A councillor who has been pushing for Saanich to ban plastic bags applauds Victoria’s decision to ban plastic bags by summer of 2017.

“This is good news that Victoria has progressed to this stage because to be effective a plastic bag ban will need to be as region-wide as possible,” said Coun. Susan Brice, whose initiative in the fall of 2017 led Saanich to investigate its own ban based on a model from the Capital Regional District (CRD). It would ban retailers from offering single-use plastic bags free of charge, but does not set any specific charges itself, while spelling out various exemptions.

Brice said two Saanich advisory committees — environment and natural areas as well as planning, transportation, and economic development — are currently with staff including Saanich’s legal team to test the enforceability of the bylaw.

Efforts to ban plastic bags in Saanich have been underway for some time, in echoing developments elsewhere in the region, as well as outside of it. Nanaimo recently voted to ban plastic bags, and Montreal’s plastic bag ban came into effect Jan. 1.

Many of these efforts started with local non-governmental actors, including local students. Local businesses have also changed their policies ahead of future regulatory changes.

“It has been heartening to see that many in the public and businesses are already using alternatives to the single use plastic bags which says to me there is a lot of support for eliminating single use plastic bags,” said Brice. “Our schools and young people have taken a lead in this important environmental shift.”

Victoria’s bylaw will restrict merchants from charging for or providing free plastic bags, except in specific situations. Retailers must first ask customers if they need a bag, and then charge 15 cents for a paper bag, or $1 for a reusable bag.

The bylaw will still allow merchants to offer customers small paper and other bags free for packaging live fish, bulk food, small hardware items, frozen foods, flowers and potted plants, prepared foods and bakery goods. Other items in this category include prescriptions, laundry and dry cleaning, newspapers or other delivered print material, and linens or bedding that cannot fit in a reusable bag.

Businesses can be fined between $100 and $1,000 while individuals can be fined from $50 to $500 for non-compliance.

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