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Frequently Asked Questions: Sidney's Single-Use Plastics Bylaw

When does the bylaw come into effect?

The bylaw comes into effect on January 1, 2023.

What are single-use plastic and foam items?

Single-use plastic and foam items are products and packaging that we throw away or recycle after just one use. These items can end up in our landfills and in our oceans and rivers, where they contaminate our soil and water.

What items are banned in the Single Use Plastic Bylaw?

The following items are not permitted under the bylaw:

  • Plastic checkout bags
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic stir sticks
  • Foam containers (i.e., for taking food to go)

There are exemptions for certain organizations and businesses. Please read the bylaw for more detail.

What is considered a plastic checkout bag?

Plastic checkout bag means any bag that is produced from plastic, including biodegradable or compostable plastic, that is intended to be used by a customer for the purpose of transporting items purchased or received by the customer from the business providing the bag.

Does my business have to charge for paper or reusable bags?

Yes. Section 3.2 of the bylaw states that a minimum fee is to be collected by the business if providing a paper checkout bag or a reusable checkout bag. Studies have confirmed that fees are more effective than discounts in motivating customers to bring their own reusable bags. Fees may be used at the discretion of the business owner.

If I don’t charge for bags, will I be fined for being in contravention of the bylaw?

Non-compliance with the bylaw (section 5.2) may result in a fine of between $100 - $10,000 if a ticket is issued. However, the Town is currently focused on outreach and education, and supporting businesses to remove or reduce barriers to achieve the elimination of single-use plastics.

What happens to the fee I charge for bags?

Section 3.2c of the bylaw states that a minimum fee is to be collected by the business. The fee may be used at the discretion of the business owner. For example, the fee may be used to offset the costs of alternatives to plastics, environmental programs, or staff training. The fee could also be used for informational notices which advise customers that the business is transitioning away from single-use items. Customers often appreciate transparency on how businesses will use the fees collected.

Why are some plastics used in packaging at grocery stores not included in this ban?

Many types of plastic packaging is necessary for important health and safety functions, and some have limited alternatives commercially available at this time (such as coffee lids). However, many of these packaging materials are readily recyclable and are accepted by RecycleBC either at curbside or depot. Check out the CRD website to learn more about local recycling.

Are compostable bags allowed under the bylaw?

No. As defined in the bylaw, bags labelled either compostable or biodegradable are banned. Bags labelled compostable or biodegradable are not accepted in all recycling and/or municipal green bin programs, and do not break down in marine environments.

My checkout bags, cutlery, straws, stir sticks, and/or foam containers are labelled compostable, biodegradable, or 100% plant-based. Are they banned?

If the item carries one of the compostable symbols below, it is permitted. However, if an item claims to be compostable or plant-based, but does not have one of these symbols, it would not be permitted under the bylaw.

What plastic bag alternatives are recommended?

If a customer is first asked whether they need a bag, businesses may provide recycled paper bags or reusable bags for a fee. Businesses can encourage their customers to bring their own reusable bags. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) provides additional guidance for selecting alternative to single-use plastics.

Can I provide plastic straws for accessibility purposes?

Yes. Section 4.1c states that a business can provide a non-compostable plastic flexible or non-flexible straw to customers as they are an important accessibility tool. Businesses can provide a straw to any customer who requests one for an accessibility need.