Plastic checkout bags are on borrowed time in Greater Victoria as the province has given five municipalities the green light to implement bylaws banning single-use plastics locally.
On Sept. 12, the province approved bylaws banning single-use plastics in Victoria, Saanich, Tofino, Ucluelet and Richmond and said that submissions from other municipal governments will also be considered.
The announcement comes after the City of Victoria spent two years fighting for its Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw which went into effect July 2018 and regulated the issuance of single-use plastic bags in the city with fines.
In January 2018, the Canadian Plastic Bag Association (CPBA) challenged the bylaw and in May of that year, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the City. However, in 2019, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the CPBA after determining that the bylaw was invalid because approval from the Minister of Environment was needed under the Community Charter.
Influenced by Victoria’s battle, the District of Saanich submitted its own plastic bag regulation bylaw to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for approval in November 2019. In March, council was notified that the bylaw had been approved.
“The elimination of checkout bags is a small but important step toward becoming more sustainable, reducing waste and respecting our natural environment,” Mayor Fred Haynes said at the time.
Moving forward, the province said steps are being taken to draft a new regulation under the charter to allow bylaws banning single-use plastics such as straws, shopping bags and foam take-out containers to be implemented without the need for provincial approval.
“People have been consistent and vocal about the need to take serious action now on plastic waste and pollution, and we have heard the message loud and clear,” said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in a written statement.
He noted that the ministry plans to work to ensure that anyone who requires the single-use products for health or accessibility reasons can still access them.
The province is also looking to expand recycling programs by increasing the number of products recycled through industry-funded programs; developing recycling programs for items such as mattresses and electric-vehicle batteries; implementing a 10-cent minimum deposit on all beverage containers and, for the first time, containers for milk and dairy-alternatives; improving packaging recycling in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors; and introducing an electronic refund option to make recycling easier.
-With files from Kendra Crighton and Nicole Crescenzi.