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Greater Victoria, BC News


Date ArticleType
9/1/2016 Published Article
The retail plastic bag - an unnecessary evil?

The City of Victoria Council is presently considering a "phased in ban or required retail bag fee, at a cost of no less than 10 cents per bag, to incentivise the adoption of sustainable reusable bags, with the City's recommendation to re-invest those funds to improve business packaging and sustainability programs and future packaging reduction initiatives." (Council Minutes - May 26, 2016).

Plastic retail bags are fast becoming more than just a portable container for our purchases. They are a symbol for consumer waste, a symbol of what is threatening our environment, even a symbol for poor choices.

Symbolism aside, retail plastic bags usage is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In Greater Victoria, we do well in residential waste diversion, i.e. separating out our recycling, organics, etc. from what goes to the landfill. But we perhaps have a way to go in overall solid waste reduction.

For example, when I put out my curbside recycling, I see an increasing number of blue bins throughout my neighbourhood overflowing with single-use packaging.

This is the packaging that we all use in our day-to-day activities. The bulk of what I see in the blue bins are the plastic containers encasing the food we buy and - ironically - carry home in our reusable shopping bags.

So why the focus on plastic bags?

Business owners and leaders are already actively engaged in solid waste management. Not just because they themselves are also environmentally-aware citizens, but because collection and transport of solid waste is increasingly costly.

Businesses often employ waste minimisation strategies, e.g. preventing waste by the three Rs, Reduce, Reuse or Recycle – often on their own time and dime. These businesses encourage their employees and customers to reduce waste, such as by giving discounts for use of their own reusable containers, e.g. cloth shopping bag or beverage container or like at The Chamber, removing all garbage cans from offices and common areas!

Businesses already feel heavy pressure to keep costs low as possible to remain competitive not just regional, but globally. Business should not have to spend their time and money to sort through waste looking for what can be diverted from the landfill, when the end-user can much easier do so pre-disposal.

Both our environment and economy need a coordinated and region-wide approach to solid waste reduction, one that that engages consumers, businesses, municipalities and industries throughout Greater Victoria. One that reduces costs on businesses and creates incentives to do business in Greater Victoria.


Peggy Kulmala is the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s manager of policy and public affairs.

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