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Victoria’s bylaw banning plastic bags back in effect

The bylaw restricts businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags, charges for alternatives
Victoria’s bylaw restricting businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags came into effect on April 15. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

The question of paper or plastic has become paper or reusable in Victoria as the city’s bylaw restricting plastic checkout bags came into effect on Thursday.

“Reducing the distribution of single-use plastic items in Victoria is helping to keep plastic waste out of our landfill, save tax dollars and protect the environment,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, in a press release.

She said most businesses have continued to encourage customers to use reusable bags despite the delayed bylaw’s absence.

“Resuming the Checkout Bag Bylaw is a simple step to maintain our forward momentum towards reaching our goal to reduce waste by 50 per cent by 2040 and be fully zero waste by 2050,” Helps said.

The capital city first introduced the plastic checkout bag bylaw in January 2018, but it was held up by court challenges before it was eventually passed along to the province for approval. After B.C. gave the bylaw the green light last year, it was put on hold again due to the pandemic.

READ: Victoria’s plastic bag ban could make a comeback this month

The bylaw bans issuing plastic checkout bags, including compostable and biodegradable ones, and businesses can face fines for providing them. Other bylaw offences that businesses can be fined for include: providing a checkout bag without asking whether the customer needs one, discouraging reusable bag use and charging less than the minimum amounts for provided bags.

Stores can’t provide free checkout bags, but can offer customers paper or reusable bags for no less than 25 cents and $2, respectively. Business-provided paper and reusable bags also must meet certain standards under the bylaw, like being made from recyclable or sustainable materials.

Reusable bags must also be durable enough to withstand at least 100 uses. The city says reusable bags are safe to use during COVID-19.

The bylaw outlines some exceptions where plastic bags can be used for protecting or packaging certain foods, newspapers and prescription drugs.

The city said businesses showed excellent compliance with the original bylaw and it will continue to support businesses through education and awareness.

“The chamber worked closely with the city to ensure the bylaw reflected the work already being done by businesses to reduce waste and look after customer requests,” said Bruce Williams, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s CEO. “The public asked for this change and businesses responded.”

The city estimates that Victorians dispose of 17 million single-use plastic bags annually.

Residents and businesses can send their questions about the bylaw to

READ: Plastic checkout bags could be banned in Saanich starting this summer

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