Sooke is one step closer to banning plastic shopping bags by 2020.
District council passed a motion by Coun. Tony St-Pierre that would target the single-use bags commonly seen at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Council voted unanimously for the ban on May 13, when it iniated a bylaw.
The Surfrider Foundation says the average Canadian uses 200 to 300 plastic bags per year with an estimated cost of two to five cents each to make. However, plastic bags cost approximately 17 cents each in respects to clean-up costs, which encompasses worker pay, fuel and maintenance of vehicles and disposal costs, to name a few.
The belief that plastic bags are worse for the planet than either paper bags or reusable totes has been challenged in court by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association.
“For years they have been doing scientific studies and there is not one that shows that paper is better for the environment than plastic bags,” said Sally Potter, a researcher for the Canadian Plastics Association.
“In fact, studies have shown paper bags to have seven times the carbon footprint of plastic.”
Mayor Maja Tait said Sooke’s bylaw isn’t as much concerned with the carbon footprint as it is with the level of plastic waste entering waterways and harming ocean wildlife.
“You don’t hear about whales washing ashore with their stomachs full of paper bags,” Tait said.
Potter agreed plastics in the ocean are a serious problem, but maintained that banning single-use grocery bags is not the answer.
A municipal staff report noted Sooke businesses have embraced a reduction in bag use by asking customers if they require a bag, offering a choice between plastic or paper bags, and one retailer charging customers if they want a bag.
“With business, restaurants and community partners on board, this bylaw could assist with reducing the amount of plastic bag litter and waste in the community. It could also reduce plastic bag disposal at landfills and in transit garbage containers,” stated the report.
Not all plastic bags would be banned. Garbage bags, dog waste bags, dry-cleaning bags and various other bags used to carry damp or hazardous items are among the plastic bags that would be exempt.
Plastic bags that carry newspapers are also exempt, according to the propsed bylaw.
Both Victoria and Esquimalt have adopted single-use plastic bag restrictions.
The proposed Sooke bylaw will go to public hearing before council considers making it law.