Single-use checkout bags are on the way out in Nanaimo as the city’s bylaw regulating single-use checkout bags has received provincial approval. (News Bulletin file photo)

Single-use checkout bags are on the way out in Nanaimo as the city’s bylaw regulating single-use checkout bags has received provincial approval. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo’s bylaw banning plastic checkout bags receives provincial approval

Bylaw expected to come into effect July 1

Single-use checkout bags are on the way out in Nanaimo.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced Friday, Feb. 12, that it is approving bylaws banning single-use plastic bags in four cities, including Nanaimo.

A City of Nanaimo press release noted that the checkout bag regulation bylaw is meant to “encourage the use of reusable bags by eliminating use of plastic bags.” Even compostable and biodegradable bags are subject to the ban “as some of these form harmful micro-plastics as they degrade,” the city press release notes. The bylaw also sets mandatory fees for paper bags and reusable bags in keeping with the intent of the bylaw.

“It’s not just banning single-use plastics, it’s regulating all single-use bags, anything that’s not necessary…” said Coun. Ben Geselbracht. “We’re trying to get people to reuse as a priority.”

There will be certain exemptions to the bylaw, for example plastic bags for bulk foods and produce.

The bylaw is scheduled to take effect July 1, which “gives time for retailers to adjust their delivery and work through any existing stock of bags,” the city press release notes.

Councillors say the city consulted with the chamber of commerce and businesses that would be most impacted by the single-use bag regulations.

“With the upcoming provincial regulations and probably upcoming federal regulations, the writing’s on the wall here … and I fully expect private industry will respond and have suitable replacement products to make this transition as smooth as possible,” said Coun. Tyler Brown.

Nanaimo city council unanimously gave three readings to the bylaw in October and staff suggested at that time that if the province approved the bylaw within six months, the July 1 target date could be met. The city anticipates beginning an education and awareness campaign as soon as next week.

Esquimalt, Surrey and Rossland are also being added to British Columbia’s growing list of municipalities implementing bans.

A press release from the ministry notes that the province is moving ahead on “the regulatory groundwork” to enable local governments to ban single-use plastics without requiring provincial approval.

The province noted that the four new bylaw approvals come in time for Plastic Pollution Awareness Day on Monday, Feb. 15. Geselbracht said it’s estimated that there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are fish by 2050 and said it’s a threat to global ecological health.

“It’s something that we need to take very serious measures on. The single-use plastics regulation is just a first step…” he said. “I think our community is very well-educated on this and understands that Nanaimo’s got to take its fair share of responsibility to do what we can to protect the planet.”

Brown said he thinks citizens will be generally supportive of new regulations on checkout bags.

“There’s a growing awareness of the impact some of our consumer choices have on the environment,” he said.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo moves closer to banning plastic and other single-use checkout bags

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