Plastic Bag Ban

Plastic Bag Ban

Town of Qualicum Beach Single-Use Item Regulation Bylaw No. 723, 2018, as at Second Reading (September 17, 2018)

FAQ Display

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is reducing the amount of plastic bags important?

  • Town of Qualicum Beach residents use approximately 200 bags each every year, which would equate to 1.788 million plastic bags from town residents, alone [1].
  • Plastic bags are made from a limited supply of non-renewable petroleum sources, which contribute to greenhouse gases, air quality issues, natural resource depletion, chemical, waste and litter accumulation.
  • People may use them only once, yet they remain in the environment for more than a human lifetime, up to 500 years.
  • Littered plastic bags are in the top 10 list of garbage found on the world’s beaches [2].
  • To reduce the amount of waste before it enters our management systems will help Town staff reduce operating costs and/or increase levels of service to enhance the quality of life and experience for all residents and visitors.
[1] Based on the 200 bag per capita estimate, from the Globe and Mail article called “The Battle of the Bag”, 7 June 2012, available online at:
[2] Ocean Conservancy (2015). International Coastal Cleanup. Annual Report.

Why is the Town developing a new bylaw to reduce single-use checkout bags?

The purpose of the Bylaw will be to restrict the provision of single-use plastic checkout bags, in order to minimize the volume of plastic bag waste entering our landfill, our waste collection systems, and littering our community. This policy aims to reduce single-use plastic bags that quickly become waste after only a few uses.

How do plastic bags compare to paper bags?

  • Plastic bags may only be used for minutes, but they remain in the landfill for over 100 years.
  • Modern landfills are covered, and do not promote conditions with enough oxygen and heat to break-down this garbage.
  • When a plastic bag is littered, it becomes a visual nuisance, can block water flow in natural and man-made systems, or harm wildlife.
  • A littered paper bag breaks down more quickly in water, and poses less risk to wildlife compared to a littered plastic bag.
  • Paper bags also pose environmental impacts due to resource consumption (ie. trees!) and the chemical pulping process.
  • Ideally, all paper bags would be made from post-consumer recycled products, and then recycled at the end of use.

What about bio-degradable bags - aren't they sustainable?

It is a common misconception that bio-based bags break down readily in the environment. If recycled, bio-based bags are often mixed with regular plastic bags and damage recycling equipment and processes. Additionally, many bio-based bags are designed to break-down when processed in industrial compost facilities (high temperature with controlled oxygen levels). Only with proper labeling, separation and materials, would bio-based plastic bags be a more sustainable option.

What are the alternatives to plastic bags?

A reusable shopping bag used many times has the least environmental impact of all bag types. The ideal reusable bag is made from post-consumer recycled products, using the least amount of energy, water, and chemicals, and then properly recycled or repurposed at the end of life. Alternatives to plastic grocery bags exist, and each have different advantages and disadvantages. The common types of grocery/carrier bags include the following:
Bag Types Comparison
After eight uses, not including washing, a reusable plastic bag has a lower environmental impact than a single disposable plastic bag. Numbers given are per 1,000 bags, except for single-use polyethylene, which is per 1,500 bags to account for their smaller carrying capacity.
SOURCES: California State University, Chico, Research Foundation; Joseph Greene
Credit: Shutterstock (all)/C&EN

Under the terms of the proposed bylaw, will businesses be able to provide customers with single-use plastic bags?

No. The exact regulations are still under discussion, however the intent of the project is to prohibit businesses from selling or providing for free single-use plastic bags.

Will there be exemptions to this bylaw to allow some single-use plastic bags?

A list of exemptions will be considered. Some exemptions could include:
  • Bags for loose bulk items (e.g. fruits and vegetables, nuts, baked goods, meat)
  • Wrapping for flowers or potted plants
  • Bags to protect newspapers or other printed materials intended to be left at a customer's residence or place of business (and potentially exposed to the elements)
  • Professional dry cleaning clothing bags

How do you define "plastic bag"?

The exact definition in the bylaw is yet to be determined. The bylaw seeks to prohibit the sale of thin film style plastic bags, which are generally only used once or a few times before being recycled or discarded.

How do you define "reusable bag"?

The exact definition in the bylaw is yet to be determined. A bag that has an intended lifespan of at least 100 uses is a general guideline used by some municipalities who have implemented a plastic bag ban.

When is the bylaw going to take effect?

The next few months are devoted to public outreach, after which the bylaw will be drafted and presented to Council and the public for review. The goal is to have the bylaw approved by April 22, 2018 to coincide with Earth Day, however it is more important to get it right than to get it done fast.

Will businesses be permitted to sell plastic bags sold in packages?

Yes. Plastic bags for use in the home or business, such as garbage bin liners, sandwich bags, compost liners, etc., will not be included in this bylaw. The intent of the bylaw is to reduce the amount of plastic bags used for transporting goods from the store to the home.

How will the bylaw be enforced?

Education and awareness are the first steps when introducing a new program. An enforcement plan will be considered by Town staff.

Can a customer be fined?

No. The bylaw will regulate businesses that provide single-use plastic bags, not customers.

How can I provide feedback?

We're glad you asked!

Please consider taking our survey to let us know what you think.

You can also attend a public open house session on February 15, 2018 from 2-5pm, or from 6-9pm, at the Qualicum Beach Town Hall, 660 Primrose Street, Qualicum Beach.

Or, give us a call, send us a letter, e-mail, or fax:
P: 250-752-6921
F: 250-752-1243

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