Victoria ponders plastic-bags ban appeal, new rules

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Victoria city councillors will decide in early September whether to appeal a B.C. court decision striking down the city’s bylaw banning plastic bags.

Councillors on Thursday asked city solicitor Tom Zworski for a report on the advisability of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

They also asked for a report from director of engineering Fraser Work on what’s needed to develop a new comprehensive environmental protection bylaw that would regulate, prohibit and restrict single-use plastics.

The council directives come after Victoria’s plastic bag ban, enacted last July, was overturned this month after an appeal by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors of plastic shopping bags.

The B.C. Court of Appeal found that the bylaw’s primary purpose was to protect the natural environment rather than to regulate business. As such, the city should have sought provincial approval for the bylaw — something it did not do.

Meanwhile, the province is seeking feedback on how best to ban, reduce and recycle plastics — a move that is being welcomed by local governments that have enacted or are considering plastic-bag bans.

“This is great,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps of the provincial announcement.

“Obviously they had some of this in the works, but it’s great to see them proactively addressing single-use packaging.”

Helps issued a joint statement with the mayors of Tofino, Squamish and Rossland on Thursday saying they are keen to work with the province on the initiative, which they hope establishes “a clear role for local governments, our residents and businesses to move toward a sustainable, zero-waste economy and environment.”

“Our communities have enthusiastically embraced the reduction of single-use plastic items,” the mayors’ statement says.

“We have adopted bylaws or are in the process of doing so to prohibit single-use plastic bags. We’ve done this because single-use plastics and other single-use items present a huge problem and big expense in solid waste management, which is a local government responsibility.”

The provincial announcement encouraged B.C. residents to fill out an online survey. It plans to consult in four areas:

• Bans on single-use packaging: determining which types of plastic packaging to phase out altogether, as well as any necessary exemptions.

• Requiring producers to take responsibility for more plastic products, ensuring more single-use items such as sandwich bags, straws and cutlery get recycled to reduce single-use plastics in landfills and waterways.

• Expanding the deposit-refund system to cover all beverage containers — including milk and milk-substitutes — with a 10-cent refundable deposit.

• Supporting ways to prevent plastic waste in the first place and making sure recycled plastic is reused effectively.

The federal government has also announced it is planning a national ban on single-use plastic bags, but that’s not expected to happen until 2021.