Esquimalt council to consider ban on single-use plastic bags

Esquimalt is the latest municipality following Victoria’s lead in taking steps to ban single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter.

A proposal to be considered by Esquimalt councillors Monday evening recommended the township develop a timeline, work plan and budget to regulate the use of single-use bags (using Victoria’s bag bylaw as a model), and prepare a public engagement process related to banning the bags.

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Mayor Barb Desjardins said the township has been monitoring Victoria’s progress on the file for some time.

“We have significant public support that we have heard to date to say that they would like us to go forward with a plastic bag ban,” Desjardins said.

She said the recommendations are actually in response to a previous council motion in support of examining the issue further.

“We sent it our environmental advisory committee. They reviewed it this past month at their meeting and have come back to us with a recommendation to council to move this forward,” Desjardins said.

“I think we have to be thankful to Victoria for taking it out front. Is this everything we can do around plastics? No. But it is certainly a statement and also an education for people to continue to change,” she said.

Indications are that there is considerable community support for the initiative throughout the region. Saanich decided to move forward on a bag ban before the October municipal elections.

In September, Saanich council set a June 2020 target for banning the single-use plastic bags in that municipality.

Under Saanich’s proposed timeline, council would give its bylaw first and second readings next month prior to undertaking consultation with the public and industry. The bylaw would take effect in December 2019 but businesses would then have until June 2020 to use up their remaining plastic bag inventory.

Victoria’s new plastic bag ban officially kicked in July 1 but merchants have until Jan. 1 to deplete their stocks of the plastic bags.

Under Victoria’s bylaw, businesses may provide paper checkout bags if they tack on a minimum charge of 15 cents per bag (rising to 25 cents on July 1, 2019) and reusable checkout bags for a minimum charge of $1 per bag (rising to $2 in 2019).

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association challenged the bylaw in court arguing the city does not have jurisdiction under the Community Charter to prohibit businesses from providing plastic bags to customers. The association said the ban amounts to an environmental regulation that needs provincial approval.

In June, however,Victoria’s bylaw was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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