Reducing Single-Use Plastic Bags

Victoria embraces reusable bags

Less than one year after the City of Victoria’s Checkout Bag Bylaw came into effect Victorian’s have adopted more sustainable habits by embracing reusable shopping bags as the new normal.

Victorians care deeply about this issue and have told us that single-use plastic bags do not align with their values.

Even though the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the plastics industry and struck down the City’s Bylaw, we can stay on the right track and keep using our reusable bags!

With the support of the community and the commitment of our businesses, we have kept 17 million plastic bags out of the community, village centres, parks and beaches – bags that otherwise would end up as litter or take up space in the landfill.

Court Ruling Update

The City of Victoria will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the decision that set aside its business bylaw to regulate the use of plastic checkout bags.

In July, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling and set aside the City’s Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw, which regulated businesses providing checkout bags to customers and included restrictions on the use of plastic checkout bags. The Court of Appeal ruled that the purpose of the bylaw was the protection of the natural environment and that it required approval from the Province of BC prior to being enacted.

After careful review, the City has decided to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the Court of Appeal decision to clarify a municipal government’s power to regulate unsustainable business practices that negatively impact the community.

Find out more details here

What does the recent Court ruling mean for businesses?

The BC Court of Appeal struck down the City of Victoria’s Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw, meaning that for the time being the City’s Bylaw is of no force and effect.

The City of Victoria is reviewing its options as it continues efforts to phase out single-use items and eliminate unnecessary waste. Waste is a municipal problem and local governments need the tools and authority to manage it sustainably.

The ruling does not mean businesses have to change their practices. City staff have visited over 200 Victoria businesses and observed that 97% of businesses have successfully stopped distributing single-use plastic checkout bags.

Similar checkout bag regulations remain in place in other Canadian jurisdictions and the Government of Canada plans to ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. Additionally, the Province is engaging British Columbians on reducing single use plastics, consulting on what types of plastic items could be banned across B.C., and how other items could be better recycled and reduced to curb plastic waste.

UPDATE: On July 25th, 2019, Council directed:

  1. the Director of Engineering and Public Works to bring forward a public report on the process for, and resource implications of, developing a comprehensive bylaw for the protection of the natural environment that would regulate, prohibit, and impose requirements in relation to single-use plastics and other products; and
  2. the City Solicitor to report back in a closed meeting in early September on the advisability of the City seeking leave to appeal the Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Single-use checkout bag guidelines

The City of Victoria encourages businesses to continue their efforts to reduce single-use checkout bags and support the everyday use of reusable bags by following the steps below:

  • Eliminate the use of plastic bags
  • Charge a fee for paper or reusable bags to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags.
  • Ask customers whether they require a checkout bag, and if providing customers with a checkout bag, choose more sustainable products as follows:

Paper Bags: made out of paper and containing least 40% post-consumer recycled content; and labelled as recyclable.

Reusable Bags: designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses; and primarily made of cloth or other washable fabric.

  • Avoid the use of compostable or biodegradable plastic bags as they can contaminate recyclable plastics and do not breakdown in the region’s composting facilities.



Looking for tips to remember your reusable bag?

The Grade 5 class at James Bay Elementary brainstormed 10 tips to help you remember your reusable bags!


Here are a few of our favourite tips:

  • Place a few reusable bags in your glove box or on the back seat of your car. 
    Pair this with a BYO Bag window reminder decal (watch for them at the City's pop-up information stations this summer) and you'll always have a bag or two on hand for all of the incredible shopping Victoria has to offer.
  • Hang a few reusable bags by your door or by your keys.
    Grab a few on your way out and happy shopping!