Victoria maps end to single-use plastic bags

The push is on to make single-use plastic bags extinct in Victoria.

City hall staff are recommending a six-month “roadmap” toward elimination of the bags, including a $2,000 design competition to come up with a city-branded reusable bag.

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Coun. Jeremy Loveday would like to move faster, saying that the time for study is over and the city should immediately impose either a ban or a levy on disposable bags. “I’m comfortable moving forward with either a ban or a mandatory levy at this point,” said Loveday, who 18 months ago with Coun. Ben Isitt proposed a ban on single-use plastic bags.

“My vision for our coastline is not an ocean that’s increasingly filled with plastic soup — ever smaller pieces of plastic. I think the time to act is now. Other cities, states and whole countries have banned plastic bags, and I think Victoria should follow suit.”

A staff report recommends:

• Inviting groups and volunteers to inform the community about the detriments of plastic-bag waste and benefits of reusable bags.

• Workshops for businesses, industry, advocates and resident groups to share their views on potential regulation.

• Work with businesses to develop voluntary commitments to reduce plastic bag use.

• Business-led voluntary bag fee and ban actions.

• A design competition for a City of Victoria reusable retail bag with a $2,000 prize to be funded through the city’s solid waste budget.

• A public hearing in October to determine what, if any, regulatory action should be taken.

Asked by council to investigate a ban on single-use plastic bags, city staff last May suggested instead that businesses be encouraged to introduce a levy of at least 10 cents apiece on plastic and paper bags to reduce their use.

Collected fees could be invested in improving and reducing packaging.

Council responded by asking staff to do more consultation to better understand the implications of a levy. They found there’s a consensus that single-use plastic bags are wasteful.

While advocacy groups would like to move quickly toward regulation, others favour a more phased approach. There’s general agreement that increased awareness and education is needed, says the staff report, to be considered by councillors Thursday.

The report found that businesses are worried that a Victoria-only ban would impose extra costs and create an unlevel playing field with other municipalities in the region. But many businesses are interested in partnering with the city to test bag-reduction programs.

Gillian Montgomery, manager of the Vancouver Island chapter of the environmental advocacy group Surfrider, said they have collected about 6,000 names on an online petition and some 2,000 signatures on a hard-copy petition in support of a ban.

More education and outreach is not a bad thing, Montgomery said, but action certainly shouldn’t be delayed beyond another six months. “I don’t want this to take another six months after October. I really want them to make a decision in October with implementation by January 2018,” she said.

“We’ve been working on this campaign for almost three years so we don’t want this to be delayed any further. But we also appreciate the support we’ve been getting from the city on this.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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