One Big Step Closer to a Single-Use Plastic Bag Bylaw in Sooke

Sincere thanks to District of Sooke council for sending our third-time request for a local single-use plastic bag bylaw to District staff for further study following our council presentation on Monday night. With the comprehensive Capital Regional District (see Sept. 13, 2017 agenda) and City of Victoria bylaws as reference points, we hope and anticipate that it will be relatively simple for staff to draft local legislation.

Here’s the Sooke PocketNews/Britt Santowski take on our portion of a busy council agenda. Appreciation to all our councillors, with a special hat tip to Councillor Logins for recommending that the District explore local initiatives regarding other single-use plastics — straws, bottles and foam containers included. Her amended motion did not pass given the complications that would be entailed in such legislation, but it has set the stage for further action when (and still if) a bag bylaw goes ahead locally.

Until then, we’re pleased to know that our BYOB signs outside four major town-centre retailers are having an impact on shopping habits, according to anecdotal feedback from check-out clerks. Keep up the good work, Sooke!

PS Here are our talking points from July 9 …

~ Single-Use Plastic Bag Regulation: Sooke council noted last year that it would be keeping tabs on how the City of Victoria proceeds with its Checkout Bag regulation. Council was also anticipating the creation of a model bag bylaw by the Capital Regional District.

The CRD model bylaw was included in the Environmental Services Committee agenda dated Sept. 13, 2017. As Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins noted at the meeting: “This is a model bylaw that municipalities can take under advisement and choose to pursue if they so desire.”

The CRD report explained, “an emerging topic of interest is the management of single-use items, such as the City of Vancouver’s single-use item reduction strategy aimed at disposable cups, takeout containers, shopping bags and plastic disposable straws. Single-use plastics are also attracting national and international attention.”

Eliminating single-use plastic is a global priority, and was the theme of Earth Day 2018 internationally. United Nations Climate Change Director Achim Steiner has called for a world-wide ban on plastic shopping bags; representatives from 200 nations passed a resolution at the UN Environmental Assembly this year to eliminate plastic pollution from oceans.  Bag bans and/or taxes have been instituted in recent years in Kenya, Taiwan, the UK, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Australia, France and Morocco. There are anti-bag regulations in 133 US cities.

On Jan. 1, 2018, Montreal became the first major Canadian city to institute a ban on lightweight plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns; just 14 percent of the roughly 2 billion bags used annually in the Montreal region are recycled, a figure consistent with national and international averages.

This June, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the European Union endorsed the G7 ocean plastic charter, which calls for signatory countries to reduce the use of plastics and, where alternatives are not available, find ways to include more recycled materials in the plastics they do use.

 The City of Victoria’s bylaw went into effect on July 1 following a BC Supreme Court decision that rejected a challenge by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association. Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt were among CRD municipalities taking a wait-and-see approach pending the resolution of this case.  On June 18, the court upheld the rights of BC municipalities to i) regulate business transactions within their jurisdictions; and ii) manage the local waste stream.

~ City of Victoria ‘Reducing Single Use Plastic Bags” webpage (bylaw text included)

~ City of Victoria “Retail Toolkit”“developed to help businesses educate their staff and customers about Victoria’s Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw.”

~ Sooke Public Awareness & Education ~ Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) signs:  Many Sooke residents are keen to bring their own canvas shopping bags — provided, that is, they remember to get them from their back seats and car trunks before entering stores. (design for Zero Waste Sooke by Zach Ogilvie/Ogilvie Creative)

 Our colourful reminders to BYOB were posted prominently outside Western Foods,Village Foods, Pharmasave and Home Hardware in the fall of 2017. These leading local retailers enthusiastically supported this initiative; all are registered stewards with Recycle BC. The latter is funded 100 percent by BC businesses and is evidence that retailers are dedicated to reducing their environmental impacts.

 – Sooke Retail Survey: At council’s request, ZWS canvassed a range of local retailers for their views on the subject in the fall of 2016. The Little Vienna Bakery and A Sea of Bloom supported an  outright ban on plastic bags. Whiskers & Waggs favoured a ban on heavy-duty plastic while asking that biodegradable plastic bags be permitted. Peoples (now Pharmasave) did not support a ban for various reasons related to store operations. Chain outlets (i.e.,Subway) and the local BC Liquor Store are bound by corporate decisions made at head office.