A Saanich councillor says the municipality will follow Victoria in banning single-use plastic bags.
“It’s not if [Saanich will ban single use plastic bags], but how and when,” said Coun. Susan Brice.
She made this prediction as council prepares to discuss a memo in which she asks her colleagues to take the issue up again.
“There are always going to be people who don’t like government telling them what to do,” she said.
But public thinking has very much shifted against plastics including plastic bags and developments are reaching a tipping point, she said. While single-use plastic bags are easy to use, residents and businesses have already been turning away from them because of their environmental effects.
The issue will be back on council’s table Monday after B.C.’s highest court ruled in favour of Victoria’s plastic bag ban, which came into effect July 1.
The Canadian Plastic Bag Association had claimed the ban would “significantly impact” its members who manufacture and supply bags for the Victoria market, and lobbied against the move in January. But the court found otherwise.
With this ruling in mind, Saanich should pick up the issue again, said Brice.
Specifically, she is asking staff to prepare a report that would describe the future steps prior to the passage of an “appropriate bylaw” banning single-use plastic bags.
This bylaw would be modelled along Victoria’s bylaw, she said. Unless staff find any specific local issues, any future bylaw banning single-use plastic bags in Saanich should follow the central elements of Victoria’s bylaw, because of the many connections between both communities.
Many businesses operate in both municipalities, while many residents shop across municipal borders, she said.
“Clearly, there are advantages for the public and businesses to have common rules throughout the region,” she said in her memo.
Ultimately, Brice said she would like to see a regional bylaw covering all communities in the Greater Victoria region.
Looking at time frames, Brice said a bylaw could be before council within six months, coming into effect sometime after that.
Saanich has a strong record of public consultation, she said in discussing the process leading up to a future bylaw. Businesses would also need time, she added.
Brice had first proposed banning single-use plastic bags in September 2017. While these efforts gained steam throughout the fall of 2017, council voted in February 2018 to hold off with further action until after the Victoria bylaw had passed legal muster.
Brice said last year support for the ban of single-use plastic bags has been building for many years across the Greater Victoria region thanks to the work of students like Charlotte Brady and Anastasia Castro of Glenlyon Norfolk School who have been pushing for such a ban.
While it is not clear how many single-use plastic bags currently circulate through Saanich, the number is likely high.
Greener Footprints, a not-for-profit society registered in British Columbia, estimates that Canadians use up to 15 billion bags every year, or about 17,000 bags a minute. Naturally, many will end up in local landfills.
Scientists have also blamed single-use plastic bag for a long list of harmful effects.
They include the death of sea birds, sea mammals and fish. Single-use plastic bags have also received criticism for contributing to climate change by using non-renewable hydro-carbons. Finally, scientists have linked the central chemical compound in the manufacturing of plastic bags, Bisphenol A – or BPA – with pregnancy problems, prostate problems and behaviour problems in children.