City councillors, at a City of Nanaimo committee of the whole meeting Monday, directed staff to craft a bylaw to regulate checkout bags and report back on a related consultation plan. NEWS BULLETIN photo

New council resumes Nanaimo’s work toward plastic bag ban

Staff to begin crafting bylaw, consultation process to be determined

Nanaimo’s new city council wants to resume the previous council’s intention to phase out plastic bags.

City councillors, at a City of Nanaimo committee of the whole meeting Monday, directed staff to craft a bylaw to regulate checkout bags and report back on a related consultation plan.

Last December, Nanaimo council asked for a staff report on banning plastic bags, but the file hadn’t advanced. At Monday’s meeting, councillors took the next step with a motion made by Coun. Ben Geselbracht with a friendly amendment from Coun. Tyler Brown.

Councillors’ decision brings more immediacy than staff’s recommendation, which was to proceed with consultations around implementing a bylaw.

Brown asked about the expectations of the consultations.

“Understanding that Victoria has implemented it, it seems like a pretty low-risk item,” he said.

Geselbracht, in his original motion, asked that staff use the City of Victoria’s plastic bag bylaw as a reference. He suggested Victoria’s long process in creating a bylaw already resulted in various exemptions and considerations such as phased implementation.

“So that groundwork, and what works for businesses – because Victoria’s a very similar context to Nanaimo – has been done,” he said. “So we do not need to reinvent the wheel and consult for two years.”

Other councillors stressed a desire for public consultation.

“I think this council is interested in a lot of change and change that might be a challenge for some folks,” Hemmens said. “And so I think setting the tone of consultation at the outset is going to be important.”

Thorpe said he wants to see council move forward on regulating plastic bags, but not without consultation, especially with the business community.

“It affects businesses seriously and I think they have to be prepared for this and we need to talk to them before we continue.”

Armstrong suggested asking for Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce input on timelines.

Victoria began phasing in its plastic bag ban on July 1 of this year, according to that city’s website, and businesses were given six months to entirely phase out selling or providing plastic checkout bags. Paper bags may still be provided for a minimum charge of 15 cents, rising to 25 cents on July 1, 2019.

Geselbracht said he’s been hearing about the negative impacts of plastics on the environment since he was in elementary school.

“I hope that we just get on with doing this before we build economies around these materials which then makes it difficult for the business community to untangle,” he said.

Geselbracht’s motion passed with Coun. Jim Turley opposed.

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