Nanaimo plastic checkout bag ban starts July 1

A woman leaves a grocery store in Montreal on Friday, May 15, 2015. (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Single-use plastic bags will no longer be offered in Nanaimo stores starting Thursday.

The municipality is encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags moving forward. Stores can offer paper bags that are made of at least 40 per cent post-consumer recycled content for a fee of 15 cents – and later 25 cents starting Jan. 1, 2022.

Local businesses can also sell reusable bags at checkout for $1 – then later $2 starting Jan. 1, 2022.

The city notes that reusable bags must be washable and sturdy enough to be used at least 100 times.

"To truly benefit the environment and make reusable bags a better option than the single-use plastic bags they are replacing, reusable bags need to be looked after and reused as many times as possible," said the city in a release Wednesday.

"Reusable bags are not recyclable at the end of their life, so shoppers are encouraged to make good use of them, remember to bring them along on each shopping trip, and avoid buying excess reusable bags," said the city.

Nanaimo notes several exceptions to the plastic bag ban. Small bags used for produce and bulk goods will still be allowed, and protective bags for newspapers and dry cleaning can still be made of plastic.

"This change at our checkouts is a bit of a throwback; plastic checkout bags have only been mainstream for about 50 years, and yet, the extreme number of these around our planet has become a global problem," said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog in a statement Wednesday.

"In the same way we’ve adjusted to become a mask-wearing society, we’ll soon be well-practiced at remembering our reusable bags," he said.

The city estimates that approximately 40 million plastic bags were used in Nanaimo every year before the bylaw came into effect.