City mulls plastic bag ban

The days of using plastic bags to carry groceries or hold garbage could soon be coming to end.

The days of using plastic bags to carry groceries or hold garbage could soon be coming to end.

Last week, the City of Victoria voted 7-1 to refer a motion to ban plastic bags back to staff to look at the resources it would take to implement a city-wide plastic bag ban.

“This directive has come to us from the public, from the Surfrider Foundation, come to us from young students, from certain members of our small business community,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

“This is not council’s idea, this has come from the public and I think to do this well, we need to have a really public conversation about the cost and benefits and opportunities for going in this direction.”

In the past few months, council has had a presentation from the Vancouver Island chapter’s Surfrider Foundation, an organization that has been working with local residents and businesses mobilizing them in support of banning single-use bags.

More than 2,000 residents and businesses have signed the foundation’s petition to ban the use of plastic bags in the city. A number of local businesses such as Thrifty’s have made the switch from plastic to paper bags as well.

Students and teachers at Glenlyon Norfolk Elementary School also made a presentation to council about banning the bags.

“Our role as mayor and council is to steward the future of the city so that when those kids are my age and when those kids are grandparents, there’s still the natural beauty and the environment,” Helps said.

“If there are plastic bags washed up on our shores and plastic bags choking our sea life, we’ll stop becoming beautiful pretty quickly.”

Helps said the city will be looking at San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, who have already banned the use of plastic bags, on how best to potentially implement the ban.

The motion was originally brought forward by councillors Jeremy Loveday and Ben Isitt.

While Loveday said there are still many steps, including an extensive public consultation process, he is optimistic the bylaw could be approved.

“Personally, I think the time has come and we need to be not discussing whether we should do this, but how we’re going to be doing this in a collaborative way that engages residents and businesses that shows that Victoria is a leader when it comes to the environment, protection of our water systems and reducing our waste,” Loveday said.

He added he hopes to increase communication with residents, reminding them to bring their own bags when out shopping.

Staff will report back to council during the governance and priorities meeting on Dec. 3.

If the bylaw is approved, Victoria will be the first capital city in Canada to ban the bags.

It is estimated that Canadians used 2.86 billion bags a year.