Misa Funahashi (left) and Yuki Uno show off their bag options as Sakura Sushi, Grocery and Japanese Restaurant prepares for the plastic bag ban. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Plastic bag ban guidelines unclear, local businesses say

Victoria’s BYOBag movement starts July 1, leaving local businesses with mixed feelings

Starting July 1, Victoria businesses will no longer be permitted to provide their customers with single-use plastic bags, as part of the City’s new Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw.

Some city merchants are wondering how they’ll cope with the new rules, which have exemptions that will allow plastic bags for such things as bulk grocery items, the wrapping of meat and those protecting dry-cleaned clothing or newspapers left at peoples’ homes.

“I get that environmental-wise we’ve got to make a change because plastic has become an issue,” said Cherry Bomb Toys owner B. Woodward. “But with us because we have such small things, we have little packing bags … So where’s the line? Should I go, ‘here’s a handful of Lego, see you later’?”

RELATED: Victoria first B.C. municipality to adopt plastic bag ban

Woodward said the guidelines between what is considered packaging and what is a carry out bag are very unclear, and that fines up to $10,000 for companies caught giving away plastic seem excessive. “We’re all for helping the environment, 100 per cent, but we still have to do business.”

The bylaw states that large paper or reusable bags can be sold for a minimum of 15 cents for paper, and $1 for reusable bags, with sales going towards each businesses’ bag budget.

Janice Lyle, co-owner of Lyle’s Place, says some of their products are valuable and vulnerable in wet conditions, which makes her worried about the plastic bag ban. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Other business owners are vague on the fine details of the bylaw, including Janice Lyle, co-owner of Lyle’s Place.

“There’s way too much plastic being used but sometimes it is necessary,” she said. “People do need plastic to protect their items, especially if it’s a collectible and they don’t want to go out in the rain or use a paper bag where it could soak through.”

She noted that businesses have not been given clear direction for specific-use bags.

“There are bags designed for the records that aren’t carry out bags … But that’s a grey area we’re not too sure about that,” Lyle said. “It’s pretty loose so we don’t know yet.”

ALSO READ: Esquimalt not rushing onto plastic bag ‘banned’ wagon

Other businesses have been ready for months.

“We’re not carrying them, no bags at all we’re not gonna carry any replacements. You’re stuck without a bag … so bring one!” said Jack Pinder, co-owner of the Interactivity Board Game Cafe on Yates Street, adding that they hadn’t ordered any bags since February. “It’s kind of late, in my opinion, we should have done it a few years ago.”

Morgan Honda, owner of Sakura Sushi, Grocery and Japanese restaurant, said despite his business using plastic bags for take-out orders, they are ready for the switch and will offer reusable bags for purchase.

“I think people are more responsible than they’re given credit for, they know how to deal with their own bags,” he said. “In Victoria we’re fairly knowledgeable and as far as my business goes, we’re ready.”

Find more information about the new bylaw at the City of Victoria’s website victoria.ca. Under the Residents tab, select sustainability then Reducing Single-Use Plastic Bags.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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