Plastic bags no more: Victoria to implement ban July 1

The plan will prohibit businesses from offering plastic bags to consumers but allow paper of reusable bags for a fee.

Bylaw prohibits businesses from offering plastic bags to consumers

Starting July 1, 2018, shoppers in Victoria B.C. will no longer be able to get plastic bags from businesses. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The City of Victoria plans to ban businesses from offering plastic bags to consumers starting July 1, 2018.

Councillors have approved a bylaw which prohibits grocery stores from offering or selling plastic bags to shoppers. Stores can still offer paper bags or reusable bags for a cost if customers ask.

Since 2015, Victoria has been mulling the idea of banning single-use plastic bags.

Under the new ban, there will be exceptions. Stores can still offer plastic bags to package bulk items as well as for meat, prescriptions and dry cleaning.

Victoria, like other cities across Canada, is struggling with the amount of waste single-use, plastic bags create. 

It says 17 million plastic bags are used each year by Victoria residents, and they make up more than 15 per cent of landfill waste.

"Plastic bags have negative impacts on marine life, the environment and are made using non-renewable fossil fuels," said the city on its website about the bylaw.

Education and engagement

Starting in January, the city will spend $30,000 to run education programs about the ban.

It will also launch a contest looking for the most "creative and compelling idea," to inspire people to make the shift to reusable shopping bags. The winner will be awarded $2,000.

In 2019, businesses that do not conform to the ban could face fines ranging from $100 to $10,000.

"Education and awareness is the focus, and is always the first step before enforcement," said the city.

What to use for a garbage bag?

During consultations on the proposed ban, industry stakeholders — such as the Canadian Plastics Industry Association — said banning bags is a mistake.

The association argued that plastic bags that wind up in landfills can be recycled. It also says plastic bags are used for multiple purposes such as garbage bags.

In Vancouver, councillors are also moving toward reducing single-use items such as coffee cups, food containers and plastic bags.

However, councillors say they are worried a ban on plastic bags may lead people to buy other plastic bags to use for their garbage.

The bylaw has passed its third reading and is expected to be adopted by council in early January.