British Columbia

Plastics industry says people, not plastic bags, are the problem

The City of Victoria is considering a ban on plastic bags. The plastics industry says B.C. has an efficient recycling system and the problem is that the public is not putting it to good use.

The Canadian plastics industry wants the City of Victoria to reconsider plans to ban single-use plastic bags

The City of Victoria is contemplating a bylaw banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags by retailers. According to the city, plastics make up over 15 per cent of all landfill waste, comprised of single-use plastic bags, plastic film and packaging waste. (Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba)

A plastic bag ban could be coming to the City of Victoria and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association says it's a huge mistake. 

City council approved a motion last month to consider a bylaw that would stop retailers from providing single-use plastic bags. The plastics industry says it is not the bags that are the problem, it's the people who don't recycle them.

Craig Foster, a sustainability consultant for the CPIA, told On The Island host Gregor Craigie B.C. has a highly efficient recycling system and encouraging people to make better use of it would help reduce plastic waste.

"In B.C., we have product stewardship. Specifically to the packaging and the plastic shopping bag, Recycle B.C. has a provincewide system in place that uses both the depot and the return-to-retail for those materials," said Foster.

Use the system

He said the system has been developed over 30 years and is "the best in North America, if not the world." 

Foster also said if British Columbians made better use of the recycling system it could help set a global example.

'There [are] significant contributions from elsewhere in the world and what is happening here is the way to solve that problem," said Foster, who added it is people, not plastic material, that is the issue.

The City of Victoria says 17 million plastic bags are used every year by Victoria residents alone, many of which end up in the landfill, waterways and on the local beaches.

Foster argues some of those bags have already served multiple purposes, such as shopping bags that have been re-used as garbage bags. 

'Are we talking about bags that are used as trash bags? That is a different story than saying 17 million have been thrown away."

Fees not freebies

According to Foster, the CIPA would not be opposed to a mandatory deposit fee on single-use plastic bags.

"The concept that you pay is no problem and if that encourages people to stop and think about what they do and how they do it, that's great," said Foster.

City council is currently inviting review and comment on the draft bylaw from retail businesses, stakeholders and the public and will report its findings in December.

Feedback can be submitted to

With files from On The Island.

To hear the complete interview click on the audio labelled Plastics industry responds to proposed bag ban