Four more B.C. communities have now banned the use of single-use plastics to help reduce plastic waste throughout the province, including Esquimalt and Nanaimo.
“Through our CleanBC Plastics Action Plan, we’re reducing plastic use overall, expanding our deposit-refund system, calling on manufacturers to take more responsibility for their products’ end of life, developing better ways to recycle plastics into new products and implementing bans on single-use plastics,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
The ministry previously approved the ban in Victoria, Saanich, Tofino, Ucluelet and Richmond, and now it’s adding four more to the list.
Heyman announced the approval of bylaws banning single-use plastics in Surrey, Nanaimo, Rossland and Esquimalt.
This announcement highlights the new provincial Plastic Pollution Awareness Day, which is officially proclaimed to be held on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.
“This is a day for us to recognize the progress we’ve made and commit to redoubling our efforts moving forward,” said Heyman.
The Province says it’s also working on changes that will allow local governments to implement bans on single-use plastics without requiring provincial approval.
“Action on plastic pollution is critical to ensuring that our communities and environments remain healthy and safe,” said Chloé Dubois, co-founder and president, Ocean Legacy Foundation. “Enhancing these tools is a necessary step to curb the harmful effects of plastic pollution everywhere.”
The City of Nanaimo has already laid out the law on single-use plastics.
In Nanaimo, paper bags will need to contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content and be labelled as recyclable. Reusable bags for sale should be washable and capable of at least 100 uses.
There are exemptions though, including small paper bags, bags for bulk foods and produce, wrap for flowers, and multi-packs of plastic bags.
Compostable and biodegradable checkout bags are not allowed.
The ministry says addressing existing plastic pollution in the environment – especially in the oceans – came into sharp focus last summer through the largest coastal marine debris cleanup in B.C.’s history.
Small ship tour operators, in partnership with Indigenous Nations and local communities, led efforts that removed over 127 tonnes of marine debris from the central coast and Queen Charlotte Sound shorelines in a span of six weeks.
That was Phase 1 of the government’s Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund (CCCW) under the Plastics Action Plan.
The recently announced Phase 2 of CCCW funding is planning on creating more marine debris removal projects in 2021 as part of StrongerBC: BC’s $10-billion Economic Recovery Plan.
According to the province, 4o per cent of plastic is used only once, but B.C. is making strides to change this.
In 2019, 77 per cent of all beverage containers and 46 per cent of all residential plastic packaging was recovered for recycling. Of the plastic collected in B.C., 98 per cent of it stays in B.C. to support the local recycling and manufacturing sector.
The province also says manufacturers and retailers are part of the solution through extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs that require producers and sellers to manage the waste from their products.