Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw: FAQs

We've provided anwers to common questions:

1. Why is reducing the amount of single-use checkout bags important? 

  • Esquimalt residents use approximately 200 bags each every year, which equates to 3.4 million plastic bags. 
  • Plastic bags are a common, single-use item which contribute to landfill garbage, litter on our streets, damage to infrastructure, pollution in waterways and the ocean, and contamination of other recycling streams such as paper and kitchen scraps.   
  • Paper bags also have an environmental impact, primarily in the manufacturing process.  For this reason, the bylaw also seeks to reduce the switch from plastic to paper bags by requiring that a fee be charged for each single-use paper bag that is distributed by businesses.

2. Can’t plastic bags be recycled?

  • There is no household recycling of soft plastics such as checkout bags.  Bags can be taken to depots around the city and to many grocery stores and retail outlets to have these bags recycled responsibly.  However, most plastic bags end up in the landfill after only one use. The order of sustainable waste management is to first reduce, then reuse, and finally to recycle. 
  • The CRD keeps an up to date list of depots which accept soft plastics for recycling.  
  • Recycle BC is also a good resource for finding out where to recycle specific materials. 

3. Are biodegradable bags allowed? 

No. Biodegradable bags contaminate existing recycling streams and don’t adequately decompose in a landfill.

4. Can residents continue to use their own plastic bags after comes in effect on January 1, 2020? 

The bylaw only regulates businesses, not customers.  Residents can continue to reuse their existing plastic bags as long as they wish. 

5. What businesses are covered by the bylaw?

All businesses in the Township that distribute checkout bags to customers are covered by the bylaw, including retail stores, grocery stores and restaurants.

6. What exemptions are allowed?

The bylaw does not apply to small paper bags less than 15 cm by 20 cm.  The bylaw also exempts the purchase of the following items:

  • loose bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy;
  • loose small hardware items such as nails and bolts;
  • frozen foods, meat, poultry, or seafood, whether pre-packaged or not;
  • flowers or potted plants;
  • prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre-packaged;
  • prescription drugs received from a pharmacy;
  • live fish;
  • linens, bedding, or other similar large items that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag;
  • newspapers or other printed material intended to be left at the customer’s residence or place of business; or
  • laundry or dry cleaning.

7. Can businesses offer used bags to customers? 

Businesses can give a used paper or reusable bag to customers, but not used plastic bags. The Township supports solutions such as bag drop program so that a business can continue to offer recycled bags to customers or credit customers for returning their bags to the store.

8. I reuse my plastic bags for garbage and for pet waste. Can I continue to do that?

Plastic garbage bags can still be purchased in bulk at retail outlets. In many circumstances, dry residential landfill garbage does not require a plastic bin bag, but can be disposed directly into residential garbage containers. The Township encourages residents to separate kitchen scraps, and recyclables from landfill waste. Pet waste bags are available in dispensers or pet stores across the region. 

9. What about other single-use plastics?

  • There are currently no plans by the Township to regulate the distribution of other single use items such as straws and take out containers. However, some municipalities are taking actions to reduce the use of these items and residents can take their own actions to reduce the amount of disposable items of all kinds as part of their own contribution to sustainability in our region. Suggestions for reducing plastic waste can be found here.

10. Other resources