British Columbia | Store Operations | Sustainability

For members with stores in Victoria: City of Victoria bans plastic bags, regulates paper and reusable bags

The City of Victoria has passed a bylaw (January 11, 2018) which, effective July 1, 2018 (amended May 10, 2018 here), would:

  • ban the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags, except for a list of exemptions that includes packaging containing loose bulk items (such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy), frozen foods, meat, poultry, fish, bakery items, prescription drugs, newspapers, linens, bedding, flowers and potted plants
  • require businesses to charge a minimum of 15 cents per eligible single-use paper shopping bag (containing at least 40% post-consumer recycled paper content and labelled as both “Recyclable” and “made from 40% post-consumer recycled content”);
  • exempt small paper bags less than 15 by 20 centimetres (from the paper bag fee and paper bag content provisions);
    require businesses to charge a minimum of $1 per eligible reusable bag (a bag with handles that is: (a) primarily made of cloth or other washable fabric; and, (b) is designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses; and
  • the customer must be first asked whether they need a bag.
    The fees for paper bags and reusable bags are neither reportable nor remittable.

The fees for paper bags and reusable bags are neither reportable nor remittable.

On January 1, 2019:

  • the fine regime comes into effect ($75 minimum/$500 maximum fine for an individual, or, $100 minimum/$10,000 maximum for a corporation) for:
    – providing a checkout bag to a customer except as provided in the bylaw,
    – providing a checkout bag without asking whether a customer wants one,
    – providing a checkout bag that is not a paper bag or reusable bag (as defined by the bylaw),
    – charging less than a prescribed amount for a checkout bag,
    – selling or providing a plastic bag,
    – providing checkout bag free of charge, or
    – denying or discouraging use of customer’s own reusable bag.

On July 1, 2019 (council amended this on May 10, 2018):

  • the minimum fee for eligible paper bags rises from 15 to 25 cents; and
  • the minimum fee for eligible reusable bags rises from $1 to $2.

There are 12 other municipalities within the Capital Regional District (Greater Victoria). The District of Saanich has already indicated it may consider a shopping bag bylaw. Further up-island, Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach have also indicated they will proceed with a plastic bag ban.

Background:

Members of Victoria City Council have steadfastly voted for a highly prescriptive plastic shopping bag ban over the last three years after lobbying efforts from the Victoria Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

RCC and RCC members prefer that we achieve meaningful reductions of single-use items including shopping bags. Victoria City Councillors are of the opinion that their ban will reduce the amount of plastic in oceans, trees, elsewhere in the natural environment, and in solid waste operations. RCC holds an opposite opinion: it is our view this will simply result in significant increases in paper bag distribution and an increase in the sales of “kitchen catchers” for use in transporting and disposing solid waste.

RCC, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and several RCC members have unsuccessfully engaged with the City of Victoria throughout the period when the matter was under consideration. The sessions held for the purpose of stakeholder consultation were dominated by the Surfrider Foundation.

The Surfrider Foundation has now indicated they will move on to other Vancouver Island municipalities including Saanich, Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Accordingly, RCC will advocate that those municipalities choose a different model that allows the retail industry to drive single-use item reduction through innovation and common sense.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue to meet with staff and monitor developments from municipalities considering shopping bag regulations.

RCC will continue to advocate that bylaws should provide for the reduction of single-use items while allowing retailers to choose how that is best achieved and delivered in a very competitive retail environment.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at 604-730-5254 or gwilson@retailcouncil.org.

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Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has been the Voice of Retail in Canada since 1963. We speak for an industry that touches the daily lives of Canadians in every corner of the country — by providing jobs, career opportunities, and by investing in the communities we serve.

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