B.C. approves plastic bylaws in 5 communities, aims for provincial plan

RICHMOND, B.C. — 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 take-out containers from ending up in the ocean and landfills.

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The local governments will decide when the newly approved bylaws go into effect, 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 to eight months to develop but other municipalities could still work on their own bylaws in the meantime, 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.

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, 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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2020.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver.

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