A plastic grocery bag reading "Thank you. Have a nice day."

White plastic bag / Image via Christopher Vega from unsplash.com

The movement to ban plastic grocery bags on Vancouver Island has been an arduous one, but various obstacles haven’t halted its progress.

In January of 2018, Victoria instituted Vancouver Island’s first bylaw banning plastic bags. Unfortunately, having failed to receive provincial approval for the ban before its implementation, Victoria repealed the bylaw in October of 2019 following a challenge from the Canadian Plastic Bag Association (now known as the Canadian Plastics Industry Association).

Rather than a crippling blow, this defeat was the push for additional municipalities to implement plastic bag bans of their own. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled its implementation, the City of Victoria amended the bylaw, and the provincial government approved it in March of 2020. 

Following suit, the City of Nanaimo proposed a similar bylaw in October of 2020. On February 12, 2021, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman announced Nanaimo’s bag-banning bylaw had received provincial approval. The news came as part of an announcement proclaiming February 15 Plastic Pollution Awareness Day.

The City of Nanaimo has scheduled the bylaw to come into effect on July 1, 2021. This will provide retailers with time to adjust to the incoming changes. The ban applies to all plastic checkout bags, including compostable and biodegradable bags containing environmentally harmful microplastics. 

In addition to eliminating plastic waste, the bylaw is intended to promote the use of reusable bags. As of July 1, 2021, paper bags will cost 15 cents each, and reusable bags will cost $1. On January 1, 2022, those prices will increase to 25 cents and $2, respectively. 

In a news release, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog responded enthusiastically to the news, saying, “This is another important practical step in making real one of our four strategic themes—namely, environmental responsibility by individually reducing our collective carbon footprint.”

You can find more information about Nanaimo’s plastic bag ban here.

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