EDITORIAL: Ban on plastic bags reflects new reality

The plastic bag ban Victoria introduced in July of this year is beginning to spread to its neighbouring municipalities, however slowly.

Saanich council has determined that Vancouver Island’s largest municipality will ban single-use plastic bags by June 2020, a timeline questioned by at least one of those around the council table.

“That’s 22 months away,” Coun. Colin Plant said Monday night. “This a little bit slower than I prefer. We could have been more ambitious.”

But slow-going would seem to be the order of the day, as many municipalities in the Capital Regional District have decided to weigh the fallout from Victoria’s ban before making a decision to let the plastic out of the bag in their own communities.

Saanich’s timeline calls for council to give the bylaw first and second reading in January 2019. Consultations with the public and industry would then take place until April 2019, with council set to give the bylaw third reading by May.

Council would adopt the bylaw in June with an effective date in December 2019. Businesses would then have until June 2020 to use up the remaining plastic bags.

A cautious approach to the ban seems warranted as more than a few wrinkles remain to be ironed out. Victoria’s ban has more than a few moving pieces, as merchants are still allowed to offer small paper and other bags free for packaging items such as live fish, bulk food, small hardware items, frozen foods, flowers and potted plants, prepared foods and bakery goods. But your takeout from the local fast food franchise comes with a cost if you want it in a bag.

While these details must be worked out, it shouldn’t take two years to do so. If a ban on plastic bags is coming, then let’s get on with it.

While single-use plastic bags are convenient, much of society has already moved towards alternatives because of their environmental effects. Greener Footprints, a not-for-profit society registered in British Columbia, estimates that Canadians use up to 15 billion bags every year, or about 17,000 bags a minute.

Whether they like it or not, the public seems to have accepted that a ban on plastic bags is the new reality. And with the threat that plastics represent to our marine life, there’s no sense delaying legislation that reflects that reality.

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