Assuming final approval of a bylaw, Saanich will ban single use plastic bags on Jan. 1, 2020. But the bylaw also includes a grace period of six months during which Saanich won’t enforce penalties connected to the bylaw to give businesses a chance to distribute remaining bags.
This bylaw is one of four bylaws before Saanich council Monday for final approval, and will likely have the greatest impact on the day-to-day affairs of residents. Each resident of Saanich (official pop: 114,145) uses about 200 single-use plastic bags per year, according to a staff report, which also says that that business in Saanich hand out single-use plastic bags worth $22.8 million each year, according to an estimate.
Saanich would become the second municipality in the region to ban single use plastic bags, just as the first city, Victoria, faces a renewed legal challenge.
Led by Coun. Susan Brice, Saanich first considered the ban during the previous council term after hearing from local environmentalists including a trio of teenagers Charlotte Brady, Anastasia Castro and Grace Poole, who started to push for the ban in early 2017. Saanich eventually recognized the trio for their environmental leadership.
These efforts slowed down as Victoria’s proposed ban on single-use plastic bags faced a legal challenge, but resumed again in 2018 after Victoria’s bylaw passed legal muster (notwithstanding the current situation). While initial plans had called for a ban by June 2020, council earlier this year sped up the time line.
The basic fine for various violations of the proposed bylaw is $75 if paid within 30 days, $100 after that.
The bylaw prohibits businesses from selling or supplying customers with single-use plastic bags; prohibits businesses from supplying customers with reusable or paper bags free of charge (unless already used), and requires businesses to charge a minimum of 15 cents for a paper bag and $1 for a reusable bag, going up to 25 cents and $2 following a year-long transition period.
It also contains various exceptions for specific types of goods, such as fruit, vegetables and meat among others.