Municipalities throughout British Columbia (B.C.) can now move more quickly to prevent plastics from polluting their communities. Under new rules, local governments can institute bans on 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 in B.C. 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 at 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.

“Council is committed to reducing landfill waste, and we are proud that Surrey will be one of the first cities in the Metro Vancouver region to implement a ban on plastic checkout bags,” said Doug McCallum, mayor of the City of Surrey. “We have already started work to engage with our business community and residents to ensure everyone is aware of this important initiative. Surrey’s move to ban the use of single-use plastics is good for our city, good for our environment and good for our planet.”

This change is one part of the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan. Since 2020, 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 British Columbia. This equates to more than 65 kilograms of plastic waste landfilled per person in one year.

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