VICTORIA -- The City of Nanaimo is hoping to eliminate the use of plastic checkout bags in the municipality by next year, pending approval from the B.C. government.

On Oct. 19, Nanaimo city council passed three readings of its checkout bag regulation bylaw, which would ban the use of plastic bags and introduce fees for paper bags and new reusable bags at stores.

The intention behind the bylaw is to encourage the use of reusable bags, according to the city.

The municipality says that the bylaw is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The review is expected to take three to six months to complete.

If approved, Nanaimo hopes to have the bylaw adopted and in effect on July 1, 2021.

"Reducing plastic use is a not just a symbolic gesture. It is a real step forward in saving the planet and Nanaimo must and is playing its part," said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog in a statement Monday.

Under the city’s proposed bylaw, all plastic checkout bags would be banned and all paper bags would need to be made of at least 40 per cent post-consumer recycled content and be recyclable after use.

Reusable bags that can be purchased at checkout must also be washable and sturdy enough to be used at least 100 times.

Checkout bags that are considered compostable or biodegradable will not be allowed in Nanaimo. The city says that these types of bags can release micro-plastics as they degrade and be harmful to recycling and compost facilities.

Some items will be exempt from the plastic bag ban, according to Nanaimo. Exemptions include bags used for bulk foods and produce, multi-packs of plastic bags and wraps for flowers

A full list of products that can still use a plastic bag can be found on the city’s plastic bag ban proposal online here. The city says that items were added to the exemption list after a period of public consultation in 2019.

If the bylaw proposal is approved by the B.C. government, the city says it will roll out an educational campaign for both businesses and residents.