Rachael Montgomery, left, chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Victoria chapter, is joined by a counterpart in a plastic bag dress that was officially retired last week at a gathering to honour winners of the City of Victoria’s BYOBag video contest. The new City bylaw banning single-use plastic bags is now in effect, but merchants have a six-month grace period to use up what bags they have in stock before risking fines for providing plastic bags to customers. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

EDITORIAL: Get ready for the new plastics reality in Victoria

Plastic bags not gone yet from store checkouts, but consumers should make alternative choices now

Discussions leading up to the City of Victoria’s move to remove “single-use” plastic bags from circulation by city merchants weren’t always cheerful.

Many in the local business community worried whether the changes would add another cost to their already pressed operating budgets, or even alienate customers. But in general most agreed that moving customers away from plastics and toward reusable bags and containers was a good thing.

While we’ve now reached the July 1 date for enactment of the new City bylaw, 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.

While the grace period is intended to ease the business community into the new rules, the hope is that more consumers will immediately start weaning themselves off plastics and plan ahead for shopping trips of all kinds.

That means keeping cloth or other reusable bags handy, such as in your vehicle, your backpack, handbag or purse. As those who watched the James Bay Community School video entry for the City’s BYOBag contest will attest, there’s lots of ways to remind oneself to bring your own bags when shopping.

WATCH: Customers encouraged to wean themselves off plastic bags by Jan. 1

Others are watching what Victoria is doing with its bag ban, and not simply our neighbouring municipalities. Prince Edward Island is enacting provincial legislation that appears to use the City’s bylaw as the basis for the wording for the P.E.I regulation. Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps told attendees at a gathering to honour the video contest winners last week that she envisions taking the bag ban idea to the powers that be in this province, as a way of further reducing the use of plastic bags.

With A&W Restaurants, among others, planning to phase out plastic drinking straws for a more environmentally friendly model, look for the City to work towards that goal as a way to further reduce plastic waste in the community.

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