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New rules allow municipalities to fast-track ban on single-use plastics

B.C. municipalities can now move more quickly to prevent plastics from ending up in their waterways and landfills.

Under new rules, local governments can ban plastic bags and certain single-use plastics without provincial approval.

“Communities across B.C. have made it clear they want to be environmental leaders by taking steps to ban single-use plastics,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. 

“We will continue to work with all levels of government to protect our land and waterways from plastic pollution and the harm it creates. Local governments wanted the ability to act without delay, and now they have it.”

More than 20 municipalities are developing bylaws banning single-use plastics. 

Under the previous regulation, bylaws were approved for the municipalities of Esquimalt, Nanaimo, Richmond, Rossland, Saanich, Surrey, Tofino, Ucluelet and Victoria.

“Researchers have found plastic just about everywhere they have looked, from deep sea sediment to our shorelines,” said Laura Hardman, director of plastics, Ocean Wise. 

“This pollution is a threat to our health, the economy and marine life – from zooplankton to beluga whales. We have seen growing support for policies banning unnecessary single-use items from B.C restaurants through our Plastic Reduction Program. By giving municipalities the ability to act swiftly to enact bans on unnecessary plastics, this amendment will support the systemic change we need to stop plastic pollution.”

The province has amended a regulation under the Community Charter to allow local governments to ban single-use plastics, including plastic checkout bags, polystyrene foam containers and plastic utensils, which includes stir sticks. Previously, municipalities required ministerial approval to implement a plastics ban.

This change is one part of the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan. 

The province is also expanding the number of products to be recycled through residential recycling programs by adding milk and milk-alternative containers to the deposit-refund system starting in February 2022, and more single-use items to the packaging part of the Recycling Regulation effective January 2023. 

It’s also piloting new projects to use reclaimed plastic waste in new manufacturing through the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund.

Since last year, more than 127 tonnes of plastic have been removed from B.C.’s coastline under the Clean Coast, Clean Waters initiative. 

It is estimated that in 2019, more than 340,000 tonnes of plastic items and packaging were disposed of in B.C. 

This equates to more than 65 kilograms of plastic waste landfilled per person in one year.

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