Reducing Single Use Checkout Bags in Nanaimo

Bring Your Own Plastic Bags Logo 


The City of Nanaimo is dedicated to protecting our environment and infrastructure.  We are keen to reduce the impact that single-use checkout bags have in our community and beyond.  These bags, although they can be recycled or used again for a limited number of uses, aren’t often being recycled or reused. Instead, they can end up in our waterways, storm drainage systems and our greenspaces. This creates unsightly litter, blocks pipes and damages pumps. 

Many single-use bags end up in our curbside collection system where they can jam up recycling equipment, and many end up being collected in pantry closets and under kitchen sinks where they eventually wear down, deteriorate and are eventually disposed of in the landfill even if the original intent was to re-use them.

In December 2017, Council passed a motion instructing staff to create a bylaw that would ban the use of plastic bags by retailers in the City of Nanaimo to the extent permitted bylaw (see documents tab).

Following the motion, a survey for bylaw feedback was opened to residents and business owners.  Thank you to the community members and business owners that provided input on how best to manage the many challenges that single-use plastic bags create in our City and beyond.

For more information on this project, please open the tabs below or contact Public Works at 250-758-5222 or


  • Progress

    Waste Hierarchy Goals Nanaimo

  • Documents

    DRAFT Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw (as presented to the Governance and Priorities Committee 2020-MAR-09)

    Council and Committee reports:

    News releases:


  • Details

    Statistically Speaking

    • Each year, approximately 3 billion plastic checkout bags are used in Canada
    • RecycleBC estimates that they capture approximately 75% of the plastic bags used in British Columbia. RecycleBC is the stewardship agency responsible for the management of end-of-life packaging and printed paper materials in British Columbia
    • There is no good data on what happens to the other 25%
    • Plastic bags are accepted for recycling at depot locations only. If they are included with the curbside collected material, they can contaminate the entire truck-load, making it non-recyclable. If they do make it into the recycling equipment, they can damage it and create worker hazards when they get wrapped around rotating components. Compostable and biodegradable plastic bags are not recyclable.
    • Corporations and jurisdictions around the world are actively moving to reduce reliance on single-use plastics

    Potential Benefits of a Single-Use Checkout Bag Regulation

    1. Reducing the amount of plastic litter that finds its way into our terrestrial and marine environments, as well as the associated costs for City staff for clean up
    2. Reducing the likelihood and severity of damage to municipal infrastructure, such as drainage systems, water treatment facilities and pumping facilities
    3. Improving the quality of curbside collected recyclables by reducing the amount of film plastic contamination
    4. Reducing the amount of plastic that is sent for disposal in the landfill

    * Many retailers already offer alternatives to plastic checkout bags and offer discounts for use of reusable bags. Some do not offer plastic checkout bags at all.


    For a Single-Use Checkout Bag Regulation to be effective:

    1. Bring your own bag (BYOB)! Shoppers will need to bring their reusable bags with them, or may need to either go without a bag at checkout or purchase more reusable bags earlier than expected.
    2. Know your bag! Each type of reusable bag has an associated environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and must be reused many times to have a more positive environmental impact than its equivalent in single-use bags. Studies estimate that number to be between 35 and 75 times, depending on the material the reusable bag is made from. Choose reusable bags that are made from post-consumer materials and are designed to have a long life (more than 100 uses).
    3. Strategize! Many people reuse single-use bags as household garbage bags, and with the new black cart this has helped reduce the use of black plastic garbage bags. Rather than turning back to store-bought kitchen and black bags, consider having a bucket that can be carried outside easily and dumped straight into your black cart. Continuing to divert all recyclable packaging and food scraps from disposal will significantly reduce a household’s need for garbage bags. Check for more information on recyclable products and materials.
    4. Reduce | Reuse | Recycle. Ironically, most reusable bags are not recyclable at their end-of-life. Please use them as much as possible before sending them to the landfill.
  • Background

    The Problem

    These bags aren’t often being recycled or reused, and instead, some end up in our waterways, storm drainage systems and our greenspaces. This creates unsightly litter, blocks pipes and damages pumps. 

    When these bags are incorrectly tossed into the blue cart with our curbside collection system, they can jam up recycling equipment at the facility. Although many of these bags get repurposed and reused as kitchen and household garbage bags, they sometimes accumulate too fast, and ultimately get tossed in the garbage, making their way to the landfill without any reuse.

    Taking Action

    To help protect the environment and our infrastructure, the City of Nanaimo is keen to reduce the impact that single-use checkout bags have in our community and beyond.

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