BC Supreme Court rules in favour of Victoria’s plastic bag ban

The BC Supreme Court has ruled the city of Victoria can ban single-use plastic checkout bags. The court dismissed the challenge to the City’s Checkout Bag Regulation by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association on Tuesday.

“The City is very pleased that the Court has confirmed our ability to regulate checkout bags,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “This decision represents an important step in moving away from unsustainable business practices that create high volumes of waste and litter in our community”.

The ban is set to kick in on July 1. The Canadian Plastic Bag Association challenged the city’s decision in January claiming that Victoria didn’t have the authority to ban the bags.

“The City of Victoria does not have the jurisdiction under its business licensing powers or otherwise to only permit paper and reusable bags or to compel businesses to charge a fee to its customers for the purpose of promoting ‘sustainable business and consumer habits,’” read the court filing.

Once the new rules come into place, stores must offer paper bags and charge customers a minimum 15 cents, rising to 25 cents on July 1, 2019. Retailers can also supply reusable bags for a minimum of $1, going up to $2 on July 1, 2019.

If a business is caught handing out plastic bags it could be fined. The fines range from $50 to $500 for individuals and from $100 to $10,000 for corporate offenders. The enforcement of those fines is not scheduled to begin until 2019.

In his reasons for judgment, Justice Smith wrote, “I find no evidence of bad faith in this case. Although some members of council may have been motivated by broad environment concerns, council’s attention was properly drawn to ways in which discarded plastic bags impact municipal facilities and services. Council decided that those issues could be addressed by prohibiting a specific form of consumer transaction.”

Victoria has developed an information toolkit to provide businesses with information to support communications and compliance with the new bylaw. A public awareness campaign is set to launch later this month.