Victoria is saying goodbye to the plastic bag.
On Tuesday night, councillors voted to implement a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which will take effect July 1.
According to the city, Victoria goes through about 17 million plastic bags every year, clogging landfills and making their way to waterways and beaches where they can harm marine life.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says the ban is being phased in, and that the city won’t begin to crack down with enforcement until next January.
“Starting in July, paper bags will cost 15 cents and reusable bags will cost $1. Six months after adoption, starting on Jan 1, 2019, reusable bags will cost $2, and paper bags will cost 25 cents,” she said.
Helps said the city has spent three years working on the bylaw, which involved consulting with local businesses who will be responsible for actually implementing the ban.
She said council has made all of the city’s research available in the hopes that other communities will borrow the idea.
“We’ve got a detailed bylaw, we’ve done a lot of research, our engineering team has done a detailed analysis of plastic versus reusable, versus paper, versus cotton, and how many times do you need to use it in order for it to be sustainable,” she said.
“So we’ve done all of that work — it’s all publicly available.”
The city will spend $30,000 on education in the coming months to prepare residents for a shopping landscape in which reusable bags are the norm.
Penalties for violating the bylaw would range from $100-$10,000 for corporations, and between $50-$500 for individuals.
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Victoria is just one of several cities that have looked at the idea recently. Montreal became the first major Canadian city to move ahead with a bag ban on Jan. 1, and Nova Scotia’s government is looking at the idea as well.
The City of Vancouver is assessing its own crackdown on single-use trash items, such as coffee cups and foam containers.
Retail and plastic industry advocates have opposed the bans, arguing they are unnecessary as well as troublesome for businesses and consumers.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association’s website argues that most shopping bags are reused and recycled, and that other measures to reduce the number of plastic bags have already been successful.
While Helps said the city is hopeful other municipalities pick up the idea, she said she’s got another audience in mind as well, one that works not far from city hall.
“What I really hope though, and this would be tremendous, is if the provincial minister of environment says, ‘Hey, you know what? Here’s something that’s instituted in our capital city. Let’s look at this throughout British Columbia.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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