B.C. to allow cities to ban single-use plastics, adds to list of recyclables and returnables

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WatchB.C. will now to allow cities to ban the use of single-use plastics

It’s something the city of Victoria has been fighting for, for years.

A ban on single-use plastics. Now, thanks to the province, the ban could be a reality in every city across B.C.

“We will develop a legal framework to allow for provincial bans on single-use items, such as straws, take-out containers, shopping bags, and other priority items,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy in a press conference on Saturday.

In six to eight months, the province says it’s moving to approve bylaws banning single-use plastics in Victoria, Saanich, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Richmond.

“We will also ensure that specific products continue to be available to people who live with a disability or need them for health reasons,” said the minister.

Back in January, the Supreme Court of Canada shot down Victoria’s plastic bag ban, saying the city needed provincial approval.

Now, they don’t need provincial approval and are allowed to pass the plastic-free bylaws.

But that’s not the only announcement from the province today.

RELATED: B.C. government to approve bylaws banning single-use plastic in communities on Vancouver Island

The province is now moving towards expanding the list of items that can be recycled in B.C., including sandwich bags, stir sticks, and plastic cutlery.

“Every measure that prevents plastic from entering our ocean or removes it from our coasts and ocean is important,” said ChloĂ© Dubois, president, The Ocean Legacy Foundation. “Policy measures like these are a crucial next step. I am thrilled to see our coastal communities lead the way with single-use plastic bans.”

Not only will more items be recyclable in B.C., but the government is ready to pay the public for new returnables.

“The ministry is introducing a minimum 10 cent deposit on all beverage containers. Also, for the first time, milk and milk-alternative containers are scheduled to be added to the deposit and refund system,” said Heyman.

It’s more good news for nature and Victoria’s bottle depots.

“A million beverage containers a day get lost in B.C., either in the environment or in the landfill. It’s so important the customers return it and do it properly, don’t put it in the blue box, keep the money local,” said Adam Boswick, chief operating officer of the Bottle Depot.

Amid the pandemic, with bars closed and more people eating and drinking at home, the three Bottle Depot locations have been busier than ever.

“Since the June time frame, year on year, we’ve seen at least double-digit growth at all three of our depots, so it been very busy,” said Boswick, also noting they also saw high volumes due to the fact they were the only three Return-It locations that remained open during the pandemic.

The pandemic has prompted more plastic use, with disposal masks and more go-to containers used than ever. Most grocery stores also refused to allow reusable bags, increasing the amount of plastic bags consumed in B.C.

“It’s very interesting what this pandemic is doing to how much of what we use,” said Denise Blackwell, Chair of the CRD Environmental Services Committee. “What we were trying to do is now going a step or two backwards.”

With the latest announcements from the provincial government, B.C. is hoping to make progress in keeping plastic out of nature, and the landfill.

“Hartland landfill only has a certain amount of life left in it, and to site another landfill would be nearly impossible,” said Blackwell.

For now, these new measures will aim to keep landfills empty, and the ban on single-use plastics in municipalities is only a few months away.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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