Skip to main content

British Columbia has approved bylaws banning single-use plastics in five communities as it drafts a regulation allowing other local governments to create their own policies without the need for provincial approval.

Environment Minister George Heyman said Victoria, Richmond, Saanich, Tofino and Ucluelet have taken action to prevent waste such as shopping bags, straws and Styrofoam takeout containers from ending up in the ocean and landfills.

The local governments will decide when the newly approved bylaws go into effect, Mr. Heyman said Saturday.

“Every local government knows what’s needed and what will work in their community and they should be able to make decisions within certain consistent criteria that the government will lay out.”

Mayor Malcolm Brodie of Richmond said the city will work with businesses to determine when the bylaw will go into effect because many with a large stockpile of plastic products could face an extra financial burden during COVID-19.

The new provincial regulation will take between six and eight months to develop but other municipalities could still work on their own bylaws in the meantime, Mr. Heyman said.

“We will first help them and advise them on the construction of their bylaws and we will approve them expeditiously,” he said.

Victoria implemented its own ban on plastic bags in July, 2018, but it was struck down a year later after a legal challenge by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association.

In January, the Supreme Court of Canada decided it would not reconsider a lower-court ruling that stopped the city from regulating single-use plastic bags.

Mr. Heyman said he doesn’t expect any legal challenges because the province is working toward giving municipalities the power to create and implement their own bylaws, which would need to allow for some single-use products.

The government will also begin developing a legal framework for a provincial ban on single-use plastics in partnership with local and federal governments, he said.

As of January, 2023, B.C. will expand the number of products that can be recycled through recycling programs to include items like plastic cutlery, stir sticks and sandwich bags.

The province is also exploring ways to add other material to its recycling programs, especially in the northern and Interior regions of the province, including mattresses, propane canisters, electric-vehicle batteries and fishing gear, Mr. Heyman said.

A standardized 10-cent deposit will be implemented on beverage containers at Return-It depots and milk and milk alternative containers will be recyclable there as of February, 2022, the Environment Minister said.

The return system will be modernized to allow for refunds to be processed electronically, he said, adding many of the changes have come from public consultations involving 35,000 B.C. residents.

Rick Smith decided to conduct an experiment on himself to see if he could measure an increase of microplastics in his body. The author and Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute says the lab-based tests on his stool samples are the first of their kind in North America to search for traces of the tiny plastic particles in people. Microplastics have been discovered circulating in the environment and are linked to health concerns.

The Globe and Mail

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.