Saanich is going ahead with plans to ban single-use plastic bags faster than first planned.
Council Monday unanimously approved a quicker time line for the planned ban, following the lead struck by the City of Victoria last year.
Pending public feedback, Saanich was planning to present the bylaw for final reading in June 2019, with an effective date six months from the date of adoption, with businesses to receive a grace period of six months to distribute remaining plastic bags.
But several councillors including Couns. Zac de Vries and Colin Plant openly questioned why Saanich would effectively wait 12 months between final approval of the bylaw and implementation.
De Vries said Saanich has an opportunity to show leadership on this issue in questioning the argument that businesses are stocking up large supplies. Plant agreed with de Vries’ argument, adding that public feedback will tell Saanich whether it is moving too fast or not.
Council eventually agreed with de Vries’ rationale and eliminated the six-month grace period following adoption, with the ban now coming into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The public had heard earlier that grace period intended to give businesses additional time to use up remaining bags.
Plant also used the occasion to deflected criticism that Saanich had been dragging its feet on the file, putting to various process issues, including the legal challenge that the City of Victoria faced when it moved ahead with plans to ban the bags.
Saanich’s decision to move ahead with the ban means the largest municipality of the region is joining the second-largest — Victoria — in banning single-use plastic bags.
Led by Coun. Susan Brice, Saanich first considered the ban during the previous council term after hearing from local environmentalists including a trio of teenagers Charlotte Brady, Anastasia Castro and Grace Poole, who started to push for the ban in early 2017. Saanich eventually recognized the trio for their environmental leadership.
These efforts slowed down as Victoria’s proposed ban on single-use plastic bags faced a legal challenge, but resumed again in 2018 after a court had passed legal muster.
Council also approved up to $20,000 towards public consultations on the pending ban, but several speakers predicted that the public would like to see Saanich move ahead sooner rather than later.
Brice herself said that a number of businesses have already been preparing themselves for the pending ban in predicting that the ban would be successful.
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. His report also estimates each resident of Saanich (official pop: 114,145) uses about 200 single-use plastic bags per year.
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.