Rossland city council is getting ready to approve a new bylaw that would ban plastic bags from the checkout counters of local businesses. There are certain exceptions, such a recycled plastic bags, but now most shoppers will have to remember their own reusable ones from home.

Some members of the public have voiced their opposition to an outright ban, but Rossland mayor Kathy Moore says it’s still moving ahead.

“In an ideal world, that would be true, a ban wouldn’t be necessary, but the reality is we’ve been trying to work on this for 12 years and people’s behaviour really only changes when it turns into a bylaw, I think.”

She was also encouraged by feedback received at a public engagement meeting last month and says single use plastic bags might not be all council bans.

“I mean most of the people there were pretty much in favour of it or hope that we go farther, which we intend to in future.”

The bylaw is planned for adoption at the July 15 council meeting, but there would be an adjustment time for local businesses before enforcement started next year. Some businesses have already started the transition, including councillor and business owner Chris Bowman.

“He has several businesses in town and they’ve been transitioning away from all kinds of different plastic things, from straws to bags to go-containers, that type of thing,” Mayor Moore added.

He’s offered to answer questions from other retailers looking into alternative options and can be reached at Councillorbowman@rossland.ca.

The hope is not to see paper bags become the alternative however, as Mayor Moore says this will ultimately perpetuate a different sort of environmental harm.

Here’s more information from Mayor Moore included in the latest Rossland Council Connects newsletter:

“Our bylaw is modeled on the City of Victoria’s with some changes. For instance, we are not requiring that retailers charge for other bags that they offer, while this is a common practice elsewhere, at this time, that is up to the business owner. The point is to reduce plastic in our environment and reduce contributions to our landfill.

We hope to see the bylaw adopted at our July 15th meeting. A grace period will run until the end of year, then fines will apply. During the grace period our bylaw officer will visit businesses to promote awareness and encourage compliance.

The bylaw will prohibit handing out single-use plastic bags by any business in town. Of course, there are lots of exceptions and it’s worth sharing a few of them here. These restrictions do not apply to bags used to:

• package loose bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy;
• contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, poultry, or fish, whether pre‐packaged or not;
• protect prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre‐packaged;

The new bylaw doesn’t prohibit the sale of bags bought in boxes (like sandwich bags).There have been some questions about recycled bags. The bylaw allows for businesses to provide bags that have already been used. Example: The Thrift store and the library may continue to provide used bags for their
customers, but ideally the intent is that everyone develops the habit of bringing their own bags wherever they shop. Really, it’s all about changing behavior and once that happens, the rest is easy.”