Each resident of Saanich (official pop: 114,145) uses about 200 single-use plastic bags per year, according to a new report carrying details about Saanich’s proposed bylaw to ban such bags.
Victoria is so far the only community in the region that bans them and Saanich has followed the process. Monday, council plans to review and potentially give first and second reading to the required bylaw to ban the bags.
Saanich’s ban would come into effect by the end of 2019 with businesses receiving a grace period until June 2020 to hand out remaining bags. Businesses in Saanich hand out single-use plastic bags worth $22.8 million each year, according to an estimate in the report by Brent Reems, director of building, bylaw, licensing and legal services.
Removing this volume of bags would save municipal resources, Reems said.
“While it is difficult to estimate the impact of removing plastic bags from the waste stream as they are most often mixed with other garbage and remain undetected, any reduction in waste materials assists with reduced garbage volume and pickup frequency,” he said.
Banning single-use plastic bags would also “reduce the risk of fouling up municipal parks and property and underground storm water and sewer systems” likely to be impacted by intense rainfall thanks to the region’s changing climate, said Reems.
While environmentalists have long lobbied for the proposed ban, citing the harmful effects of plastic bags on human and non-human life, Reems’ report strikes a distinct economic note in stressing the expected financial benefits of the ban.
While some businesses have already taken steps to ban single-use bags, they continue to “create avoidable waste and its associated costs,” said Reems. The proposed ban would lower those costs, he said.
But the proposed ban could also require additional public resources in terms on enforcement, he warned. Saanich currently lacks the resource to enforce the proposed ban, without harming existing enforcement priorities, he said.
The basic fine for various violations of the proposed bylaw is $75 if paid within 30 days, $100 after that.
The bylaw prohibits businesses from selling or supplying customers with single-use plastic bags; prohibits businesses from supplying customers with reusable or paper bags free of charge (unless already used), and requires businesses to charge a minimum of 15 cents for a paper bag and $1 for a reusable bag, going up to 25 cents and $2 following a year-long transition period.
It also contains various exceptions for specific types of goods, such as fruit, vegetables and meat among others.
Coun. Susan Brice first proposed banning single-use plastic bags in September 2017. While these efforts gained steam through the fall of 2017, council voted in February 2018 to hold off with further action until after the Victoria bylaw had passed legal muster.