Victoria council mulls plastic bag ban

Plastic bags could soon be a thing of the past as the City of Victoria eyes a ban on the products as well as a mandatory fee on paper bags.

Plastic bags could soon be a thing of the past as the City of Victoria eyes a ban on the products as well as a mandatory fee on paper bags.

Victoria city council voted for staff to begin consultation with stakeholders about the implications of banning single-use plastic bags during a meeting Thursday.

According to a report to council, plastic single-use bags are lightweight, have a high strength-to-weight ratio and are inexpensive, durable and watertight. However, that means the bags may stay in the environment for more than a century.

In certain parts of the world, many plastic bags enter the ocean environment, where it may never completely degrade, but only breaks into small portions and can potentially harm the food chain.

“Reducing the waste accumulated from single-use shopping bags will prevent litter and its associated downstream environmental, economic and social costs,” said the report.

Originally, staff recommended increasing the voluntary price of bags from five cents to 10 cents, however, most councillors agreed, that didn’t go far enough to deter people from using plastic or paper bags.

“We are moving towards the elimination as part of a broad strategy of reducing waste . . . this motion doesn’t show that,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “The public’s opinion on plastic bags supports environmental leadership and puts the consideration of the packaging industry behind considerations of environmental protection and leadership.”

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he would support a full ban on plastic bags.

“It would get the results we would want . . . including use of non-wasteful products,” he said, adding many residents already support the ban of single-use plastic bags.

“Seventeen million bags are used in the city and they’re ending up in the landfill, in the streets, in the water. We have an opportunity to be a leader regionally and on the Island and follow the lead of people who have done the harder work.”

In the end, council voted to have staff look into banning single-use bags and implementing a mandatory fee on paper bags.

Mayor Lisa Helps hopes the potential ban doesn’t turn into a battle of businesses who don’t want a ban on plastic bags, fearing it will have an impact on their business, versus residents who support the ban.

“I think when some of my colleagues said it (the motion) doesn’t go far enough, what you meant is it doesn’t go fast enough. If we want sustainable change that the community embraces, we can’t move too fast,” she said. “I really hope we can approach this conversation as what is best for the community as a whole, for customers, the environment, businesses, this is a significant thing that we can do….We cannot impose this, it needs to be done collaboratively and together.”

In the coming weeks, staff will conduct meetings with stakeholders and develop a preliminary work plan.

An online petition to ban single-use plastic bags has garnered more than 5,400 signatures.