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City of Kamloops eyeing spring 2020 for plastic bag ban

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(via AP PHOTO/ERIC RISBERG)

While a plastic bag ban bylaw is still be crafted, a target implementation date has been announced: April 2020.

During today's Kamloops city council meeting, sustainability services supervisor Glen Cheetham told council the aim is to finish public consultations this summer followed by a summary of engagement in the fall. Engagement will centre around a draft bylaw that has already been written.

"We have taken some elements from the City of Victoria's bylaw," Cheetham explained, pointing out that other communities looking at plastic carry-out bag bylaws in B.C. are doing the same, which could create a less complex patchwork of bylaws provincially.

"We've heard from Victoria, in particular, they've had very good compliance," he said, adding a recent study showed 98 per cent compliance. The ban in the province's capital came into effect on July 1, 2018 and while there's been a legal challenge to it, a judge ruled in the city's favour.

The draft bylaw as it stands defines certain things, like precisely what a "carry-out bag" is. Not all plastic bags would be included, like reusable bags and bags for certain items, like bulk items (nuts, vegetables, nails), frozen meats or dry cleaning.

The bylaw also clearly exempts bags that are sold for use in a person's home or business, like garbage liners. There's also an exemption for bags that were bought before the first reading of the bylaw, and another for bags that are returned to the business to be used again.

If a customer doesn't have bags of their own, a business can offer one of two options: a paper bag or a reusable bag. During a transition period, a fee of $0.15 is required for paper bags, and $1 for a reusable bag. After the period, those fees go up to $0.25 and $2, respectively. A transition period hasn't been set yet.

While council approved moving forward with the draft bylaw and the public engagement component of the matter, councillors did raise concerns around people transitioning in their own homes, as grocery bags and others similar to them are often used for garbage liners.

Coun. Mike O'Reilly pointed out that the Thompson-Nicola Regional District estimates 57 per cent of the plastic carry-out bags in the local dump were reused as garbage bags. City administration noted that garbage does have to be bagged before pickup, for safety reasons.

Cheetham replied that there is currently plenty of plastic bags in the public sphere for now, and that garbage liners will not be restricted.

"There's still going to be an overall reduction," he said. "And this speaks to one of the drivers of the policy — putting a price on waste."

While garbage liners are still plastic bags, Cheetham said they may break down differently, depending on what they're made of.

The discussion also touched on composting organic waste, which reduces the amount and weight of garbage.

"I would like to challenge the public to start composting and find a way to compost," Cheetham said. "Then you produce less wet waste."

Coun. Dale Bass, who was the one behind city administration starting down the bag ban path, said she's glad it's progressing but frustrated with the timeline.

"It's gratifying to see that the administration has adopted a large part of the Victoria bylaw, because that does provide some continuity within the communities that are doing this," she told KamloopsMatters. "I'm frustrated it's going to take longer."

She pointed out that the federal Liberals' announcement they're considering a ban of some sort if re-elected is a sign of wider acceptance of the idea and that it's coming.

"I know most major grocery stores have stopped buying bags, I've been told that by many people," she said. "In fact, I was at a store recently where they thought it was already in place and they weren't giving out bags."

"And it's not a small store, it's a chain store."

Cheetham, in his presentation to council, also noted that some businesses have already made moves to reduce or give up plastic bags.

"(They're) preparing themselves for this potential policy change."




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Brendan Kergin

About the Author: Brendan Kergin

Brendan Kergin is a digital reporter based in Kamloops.
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