Saanich council has voted unanimously on a motion that will see single-use plastic bags banned in the district.

At a meeting on March 15, councillor Susan Brice brought forth a continuation of a motion on the issue that the municipality has been trying to address for more than three years.

“We were delayed through a variety of reasons, court challenges – (B.C.) ministry approvals – but we were ready to go about a year ago, and then COVID hit,” said Brice. “As a result, public health orders asked stores to not accept re-usable bags, so the whole program came to an end.”

Brice says now that people are gradually returning to the use of reusable bags in grocery and other stores in the municipality, council has directed staff to bring the bylaw forward in June 2021 for final adoption.

“What we’ve found is that the vast majority of people want to do the right thing,” said Brice. “This bylaw is giving a signal that this is a good thing for the environment and people are prepared to use their reusable bags.”

Saanich wants to make the transition to eliminating single-use-plastic bags easy for residents and businesses alike. Brice says council is aware that businesses have taken on stock of plastic bags to comply with COVID-19 protocols.

“We want to give (businesses) a few months to use up that stock,” said Brice. “We asked staff a month ago what our re-entry should be and how we (should) notify the public and businesses about the reinvigorated process.”

Brice says Saanich council has also asked staff to keep them up to date on changes the Federal Government is undertaking to ban all single-use plastic products.

“I think there is a general feeling that this is something we have wanted to do for some time,” said Brice. “We know we have public support and now it’s a go.”

The district will now begin a public education campaign regarding the bylaw to ban single-use plastic bags.

“The public have been getting all kinds of mixed messages over this past year about plastic bags,” said Brice. “Understandably with COVID, it was really important not to use re-usable bags, but now as things have relaxed people can bring their own bag again.”

Saanich council is scheduled to give final reading to the bylaw banning single-use-plastic bags on June 21. If council votes to approve the bylaw at that time, the ban would go into effect 60 days later.

“We’re confident the public is with us on this and they’ll be looking forward to actually operating as they were about year ago,” said Brice. “Pending final council decision, by the end of August the bylaw will be in effect and there will be no more plastic bags given out at the stores in Saanich.” 

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