Business Q and A
Here are some questions the City has been hearing from businesses:
What types of businesses are covered by the Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw?
All businesses operating within the City of Victoria.
What are the requirements for reusable bags?
The Bylaw defines a reusable bag as a “bag with handles that is for the purpose of transporting items purchased by the customer from and business and is: a) designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses, and b) primarily made out of cloth or other washable fabric.”
What are some examples of reusable checkout bags?
There are many types of reusable checkout bags that are designed to be capable of at least 100 uses. Examples of durable and reusable bags materials include:
-Synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester and polypropylene (non-woven and woven polypropylene)
-Cotton or recycled cotton
-Other natural fabrics (e.g. hemp, jute)
What are some other factors to consider when choosing a reusable bag?
The ideal reusable bag is made from sustainable materials, is durable and is easily recycled or repurposed.
Are there requirements for paper bags?
Yes. According to the Bylaw’s definition, a paper bag must be made out of paper and contain at least 40% of post consumer recycled paper content. Paper bags must also display the words “Recyclable” and “made from 40% post-consumer recycled content” (or other applicable amount) on the outside of the bag.
These requirements do not apply to paper bags smaller than 15 centimetres by 20 centimetres when flat.
Are businesses required to charge for fee for all paper bags?
No, paper bags less than 15 x 20 cm do not require a charge.
Are biodegradable bags allowed?
No. Biodegradable bags contaminate existing recycling streams and don’t adequately decompose in a landfill.
Can a business give paper or reusable bags as gifts?
In accordance with the bylaw, bags cannot be given away for free. Businesses should also ensure that the costs of the bags are included on the bill.
Can businesses have a bag drop program and offer used bags to customers? Can incentives be offered to encourage customers to return bags for reuse? Would fees apply?
Businesses can give a used bag to a customer as long as the bag meets the requirements of the bylaw for paper or reusable bags. Used plastic bags cannot be provided. Fees do not have to be charged for used bags.
This means that businesses can develop programs to take back surplus bags and offer these used bags to customers for no charge. Businesses can offer prizes for people who donate used bags or provide a credit to customers when they return a bag. Creative solutions like these that support the reuse of bags are encouraged.
Are there alternative strategies to using paper bags for protecting multiple breakable items (such as wine bottles) packed together in a reusable bag? Would the charge for paper bags have to be applied in this scenario?
In accordance with the bylaw, the fee for paper bags must be charged, even if the paper bags are used to protect breakable items in a reusable bag. Businesses are encouraged to explore options for reusable bags or inserts that are designed to package breakable items, and to share their findings with other members of the business community.
Do businesses need to charge tax on the fees for reusable and paper bags? Can the required fees be inclusive of taxes?
The bylaw requires that businesses charge a minimum fee for paper or reusable bags. In terms of the bylaw requirements, the minimum fees can be inclusive of taxes. The City of Victoria does not provide guidance on sales tax, however businesses can contact the provincial government on this topic as follows:
BC Taxpayer Services
For questions about the GST, please refer to:
Government of Canada
Business Inquiries related to GST
What happens if a customer asks for a bag after the sales transaction is completed? Does a fee still need to be charged for the bag?
The fee must still be charged to meet the terms of the bylaw.
Can businesses use up their existing checkout bag stock past the July 1, 2018 bylaw implementation date? Do businesses have to charge a fee for checkout bags when using up existing stock?
Businesses have until January 1, 2019 to use up remaining checkout bag stock if purchased before December 14, 2017. Businesses are not required to charge a fee when using up this existing stock. For compliance purposes, businesses should ensure they can demonstrate that the stock they are using up was purchased before December 14, 2017.
Will businesses be permitted to sell plastic bags sold in packages?
Yes. The Bylaw does not restrict the sale of bags intended for use at the customer’s home or business (garbage bin liners, sandwich bags, compost liners, etc.).
Are there permitted uses under the bylaw for paper and plastic bags?
Plastic bags, or any type of paper bag, are permitted under the bylaw if specifically used for one of the following purposes. Fees do not have to be charged for bags used for these purposes.
• Packaging loose bulk items (e.g. fruit, vegetables, nuts, grain or candy)
• Packaging loose small hardware items (e.g. nails and bolts)
• Containing or wrapping frozen foods, meat, poultry or fish – whether pre-packaged or not
• Wrapping flowers or potted plants
• Protecting prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre-packaged
• Containing prescription drugs received from a pharmacy
• Transporting live fish
• Protecting linens, bedding or other similar large items that cannot fit easily in a reusable bag
• Protecting newspapers or other printed material intended to be left at the customer’s residence or place of business
• Protecting clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning
The above list of permitted uses will be reviewed after one year to determine if any changes are required.
What type of bag can businesses use for large items that cannot easily fit in a standard reusable bag?
Single-use plastic bags are permitted under the bylaw for this purpose. However, the City plans to review the list of permitted uses when the bylaw is reviewed within one year of coming into effect.
How did the City determine the fees for bags?
Fees were set to reflect the actual cost of producing a paper bag and reusable bag. Fees are a proven mechanism to promote sustainable business and consumer habits, while avoiding overuse of any bag type.
Who gets to keep the funds collected?
The fee will be charged and collected by individual businesses. These fees will help businesses recover the cost of bags, while also decreasing demand for single-use checkout bags.
What is the City of Victoria doing to educate businesses and the community about this change?
A Retail Toolkit has been developed to provide businesses with information and tools to help transition to the new bylaw. The Toolkit is available at victoria.ca/reusablebags. The City’s current focus is on developing education and awareness related to the bylaw, and will continue to work with retailers to promote compliance.
How will the bylaw be enforced?
The City will begin administering fines in January 2019, if required. The Bylaw states that an individual can be fined between $50 and $500, while a corporation can be fined between $100 and $10,000 dollars. These amounts are consistent with other City bylaws. The City would always intend to provide education, guidance, and warnings before any financial penalty, wherever possible.
Will there be a review period after the Bylaw is in effect?
The bylaw will be reviewed after one year, or earlier, as required.
How will tourists learn about this new regulation?
The City is working with stakeholders, including Tourism Victoria, to develop a program to let visitors know that Victoria is promoting reusable shopping bags for all of our incredible shopping experiences and that we are taking serious action to reduce our litter and our landfill waste. Many of these visitors may come from other cities across North American and around the world that already have a ban on single-use plastic bags.
Is the City of Victoria planning to ban other single-use items, such as foam containers and drinking straws?
There are no current plans for any regulatory action on single-use materials, beyond plastic bags. City staff are currently developing a comprehensive solid waste management strategy for completion in 2019. This strategy will include a section on how to best manage single-use items. Stakeholder engagement on the specific issues will begin in 2018.