Victoria mulls over a ban on plastic bags from stores — again

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Victoria is considering following in the footsteps of Fort McMurray and Kenya, at least when it comes to trying to reduce the use of plastic bags.

In 2015, city council voted to have staff look into a ban on single-use retail plastic bags. Since then, staff has presented numerous recommendations on the issue, but a ban has never been approved.

Now, the idea is back before council and it's already raising concerns for some members of the local business community.

Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and she believes any effort to reduce the use of plastic bags in stores should be done at the regional level.

"We are certainly fully supportive of the objective that the city is trying to achieve in regard to reducing the use of plastic and how it ends up in our environment," Holt said. 

"From our perspective, this is a textbook case of something that should be a regional project.

"It would have a bigger impact and it would certainly make it more of a level playing field for all businesses in the region if they all had the same regulation with regard to plastic bags."

Although Holt does support reducing the use of plastic bags, she says that voluntary measures taken by businesses and the public are already doing very well.

"There are many retailers that are already doing their part," Holt emphasized.

"So, we are very interested in encouraging voluntary participation with businesses and the public, because we actually think that's the way it is going to happen. It's a very tough thing to legislate."

Victoria city council is considering a six month consultation period with stakeholders and the community.

The engagement activities include discussing strategies like creating reusable bag donation centres and reporting the rate of bag usage.

Victoria city councillor Jeremy Loveday originally helped introduce the motion on plastic bags. He is hopeful the city will soon be ready to move forward on reducing their use.

"I think the six months of further engagement won't hurt," Loveday said.

"So long as when this does come back in October, this is the decision point and it doesn't drag on any further than that."

Besides being good for the environment, Loveday believes a ban could attract more business.

"I think there will be people who actually want to come when they hear that Victoria is being a leader on sustainability and the environment and they will want to spend their money here."

The staff recommendations for the consultation period also include earmarking $2,000 for a design competition for a City of Victoria reusable bag.