The City of Victoria is considering banning stores from providing single-use plastic bags to their customers.

On Thursday, council voted 7-1 in favour of having staff look into a possible ban and report back within a month. The motion was originally proposed by councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday.

Ben Isitt

Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt wants to ban plastic bags in the capital.

"Plastic and plastic bags are a major source of pollution of local waterways, also the marine ecosystem," Isitt told B.C. Almanac guest host Michelle Eliot.

"Moving away from the ecological benefits, there's cost savings to municipalities not having plastics clog up our storm drains and our pipes, and other civic infrastructure."

Isitt and Loveday's motion also suggested that council invite public comment on the proposed bylaw, and that Mayor Lisa Helps write to the mayors and councils in the 13 municipalities within the Capital Regional District to suggest they also ban plastic bags.

'A piece of garbage'

"We think there's a right that whenever you go shopping, you have to leave with a piece of garbage — that piece of garbage being a bag," said Isitt. 

"You don't need a piece of plastic that's going to take hundreds of years to break down, just to go shopping."

Isitt said that the motion was initiated by efforts from the Vancouver Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, "which has put a lot of work into cleaning up local beaches and waterways."

With the majority of council supporting the decision for staff to look into a possible ban, Isitt is hopeful.

"It's passed it's first hurdle. The big decision, I think, will be when that report comes back," he said.

First in B.C.

Isitt said there are five Canadian municipalities that have eliminated single-use plastic bags: Wood Buffalo in Alberta (which includes Fort McMurray), Thompson and Leaf Rapids in Manitoba, and Huntingdon and Deux-Montanges, Quebec.

The state of Hawaii and a number of major U.S. cities also have a ban. Overseas, Rwanda has banned plastic bags.

"So Victoria certainly wouldn't be leading in terms of the international or even national context, but I believe we would be the first jurisdiction in British Columbia to have a ban on the bags, and we would hope that other municipalities would follow suit," said Isitt. 

If the bylaw becomes a reality, Victoria would be the first capital city in Canada to ban the bags.

Toronto previously decided to ban the bags, but that decision was reversed before it was due to come into effect on Jan .1 , 2013.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, 2.86 billion plastic bags are used annually in Canada, an average of 200 for every person in Canada.


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Victoria city council considers plastic bag ban

With files from Gavin Fisher