In hindsight, it was pretty predictable the plastic bag industry would fight back.
The court decision overturning the City of Victoria’s ban on plastic bags was less predictable but still, not unforseeable.
Just a little more than a year after Victoria introduced its ban on plastic shopping bags (July 1, 2018), a B.C. Court of Appeals judge decided that while their intentions were good, the city didn’t have the jurisdiction to block plastic bags on environmental grounds.
The decision is likely to spread a chill over the Comox Valley municipalities that have introduced, or are planning, similar bylaws. Victoria may have the money in its budget to fight an expensive court battle, but does the Village of Cumberland? Unlikely.
Admittedly, plastic bags are an awfully easy target. Even though most of us reuse them to some degree they all eventually end up in the landfill, or worse. There are bigger targets like plastic bottles, which don’t break down as easily as plastic bags and tend not to see more than a single use.
Still, any step forward is a good step. And this court decision is definitely a step backward in the cause of, if not cleaning up, at least slowing down the mess we are making of our land and oceans.
It is, at best, a temporary reprieve for the manufacturers and distributors represented by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, which was fighting the bylaw. Federal or provincial plastic bag bans are likely on the way, and even if they don’t arrive, people will hopefully give up plastic bags on their own.
You see the same battle going on in many sectors: protecting the remaining mountain caribou, slowing climate change or any of the other of the pressing environmental issues we are facing.
It’s all coming down to entrenched interests, whether plastic bag manufacturers, local guides or multinational oil companies, fighting change as hard as they can.
It would be better if rather than investing in a court battle to keep the status quo for a little longer, plastic bag manufacturers devoted themselves to producing a more environmentally acceptable bag.