BC Liquor Stores will be phasing out the use of single-use plastic bags by March of next year, according to the provincial government.
Thereafter, customers will be charged 10 cents per paper bag should they not bring their own bag.
The government’s 197 stores distributed about 22 million plastic bags last year, roughly equivalent to how many bags are distributed annually at shops in the entire city of Richmond, where Bulldog Bag Ltd. will manufacture the new paper liquor bags with a minimum of 40% post-consumer material
Attorney General David Eby, whose ministry is in charge of the chain of Crown corporation retail outlets, said the change is small on its own but should help add to the cumulative effort to reduce plastic pollution in the province.
He said the dime charged to customers is to help offset the cost of the paper bag and incentivize customers to bring their own.
The announcement comes months ahead of an expected new set of province-wide policies and regulations to reduce or, perhaps, ban single-use plastics such as straws, shopping bags and utensils.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change George Heyman said his ministry is finalizing the new policies but would not tip his hand as to whether a universal single-use plastics ban will be implemented.
On Friday, Metro Vancouver’s zero waste committee intends to write a letter to Heyman asking for his support for “province-wide restrictions on the sale and use of problematic single-use plastics.”
Metro Vancouver also wants Heyman to give local governments clear authority “to restrict the distribution of problematic single-use items in their communities in addition to any province-wide bans.”
So far, municipalities have created a hodgepodge of bans and regulations. When Richmond banned single-use plastics for all business licence holders in July, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce called for a unified approach to the solution.
Heyman only said “a suite of policies and regulations on single-use, disposable packaging” is coming in the “early new year.” He said he needed to consult with industry, which is seeking support for any sort of transition.
“We’re aware of requests from municipalities across the province to support their initiatives to control the use of single-use plastic items,” said Heyman.
“I think very much we need to make the transition; we need to make it in a way that supports industry and making that transition smoothly and supports consumers in having access to alternatives,” added Heyman.
As for the alternative at BC Liquor Stores, Eby noted the new paper bags could handle up to six bottles of wine or a six-pack and two bottles of wine.
“They’re fully capable of carrying your party home with you,” said Eby.