Levi Rowan (centre), joined by friends, accepts an award as youth category winner for the BYOBag video contest from Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and judge Dan Dagg, chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce board. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

WATCH: Customers encouraged to wean themselves off plastic bags by Jan. 1

City of Victoria’s new bylaw eased in for merchants; winning videos offer tips for making changes

As merchants in the City of Victoria begin the new reality for plastic bag regulations, the winners in a video contest aimed at convincing shoppers to make different choices are being honoured.

The winning filmmakers, as judged by a panel, were recognized during a gathering at The Fort Common last week, and attendees got a chance to view the creative ways in which they got the message across.

Ideas ranged from a young woman “breaking up” with plastic bags (Leah’s Ditching Plastic Bags, all ages and People’s Choice winner), to an animated short featuring a bag-making machine (The Reusable Story, youth winner, to tips for remembering to bring reusable bags (10 Tips in 60 Seconds for BYO Bags!, honourable mention).

Levi Hildebrand, who produced Leah’s Ditching Plastic Bags, drew applause when he told the crowd they would use the $500 People’s Choice prize to help continue the cause of reducing and removing plastic bags and other debris from the ocean environment.

“We’re planning to team up with Surfrider (Foundation) and we’re going to take that money and launch a big beach cleanup,” he said.

The winning videos and finalists are up on the City’s website at bit.ly/2GtlvSZ.

The bylaw that went into effect July 1 allows city merchants a grace period during which they may use up the plastic bags they have in stock – as long as they were purchased before last December. That lasts until Jan. 1, 2019, after which no more plastic bags can be provided to customers, outside of the specialty categories listed in the bylaw.

Rachael Montgomery, Victoria chapter chair for the Surfrider Foundation – its members were among the first to lobby the City to make the change – joked that the plastic bag’s life in Victoria will officially end at age 40 come Jan. 1. Getting to this point, she added on a more serious note, was the result of her group and others being listened to by council and City staff and that debate around the issue was allowed to take place.

RELATED: BC Supreme Court rules in favour of Victoria’s plastic bag ban

Fraser Work, the City’s director of engineering and public works, said that during discussions with stakeholders in the leadup to the creation and approval of the new regulation, “There was one thing that everybody agreed: reusable is best.”

“No one was refuting that sentiment, no one was challenging that sentiment,” he said. “The transition on how to get there … was always up for debate, but that one truth stayed strong in our dialogue.”

Dan Dagg, chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and a judging panel member, applauded everyone involved in the process for taking steps that will enhance life here for future generations. “The success of something like this is dependent on everyone embracing it: citizens, businesses, stakeholders; we all need to adopt and move forward willingly to change and this is an initiative that will do that,” he said.

At the gathering, Mayor Lisa Helps gleefully told the crowd that the Province of Prince Edward Island recently adopted the City’s bylaw, “word for word,” to create provincial legislation. She tossed out a challenge for the region and the Province of British Columbia to do the same, as a way to make the strategy easier to implement.

RELATED: Plastic bag ban guidelines unclear, local businesses say

The City has created a retail toolkit for merchants to better understand the new bylaw, with tips on how to make the switch. A consumer-friendly version featuring ways to reduce single-use plastic bags can be found at bit.ly/2z9hDYV.


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