Saanich Coun. Susan Brice says it is a matter of time until Saanich bans single-use plastic bags.

EDITORIAL: Saanich changes are in the bag

Victoria’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags created more than a few waves, with controversy surrounding the decision that eventually made its way through the courts.

Saanich hopes to have an easier go of things when it introduces a ban, something one local councillor predicts is only a matter of time. “It’s not if [Saanich will ban single use plastic bags], but how and when,” said Coun. Susan Brice, who reintroduced the issue at council this week.

The ban has caused some anxiety in the local business community, with some merchants worried the changes would add another cost to their already pressed operating budgets, or even alienate customers. But overall, most have accepted the reality that society is moving away from plastic shopping bags and accepted that the switch to reusable bags is a good thing.

But those changes haven’t happened overnight. Even though Victoria’s ban took effect July 1, plastic bags haven’t disappeared from retailers’ shops. Until Jan. 1, 2019, operators are permitted to use up supplies of plastic bags purchased before last December. After that date only specialty plastics such as meat wrapping and dry cleaning bags may be used and merchants risk fines if still providing banned plastics to customers.

Saanich has the benefit of the Victoria model providing an example, with its southern neighbour’s experience ironing out many of the wrinkles and helping to build consensus. But with the reality of Victoria’s ban sinking in with consumers, the time has come for Saanich to move forward with a ban of its own.

This is an issue the entire region must embrace. Businesses operate throughout the Greater Victoria region, and municipal boundaries have little impact on shoppers.

“Clearly, there are advantages for the public and businesses to have common rules throughout the region,” said Brice, who would ultimately like to see a regional bylaw covering all of Greater Victoria.

Saanich moving forward on the plastic bag ban puts us one step closer to a regional approach for an issue whose time has come.

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