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B.C.-wide ban nearly in the bag for single-use plastic

The B.C. government is preparing to introduce bans on single-use plastic products, such as grocery bags, as well as more options for recycling.
A women leaves a grocery store using plastic bags in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, August 15, 2019. The City of Victoria will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review a court decision that overturned its business bylaw banning single-use plastic bags.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The B.C. government is preparing to introduce bans on single-use plastic products, such as grocery bags, as well as more options for recycling.

The changes will be introduced within weeks and are intended to create a provincewide plan following the differing actions of major cities including Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, said a statement from the Ministry of Environment.

“Those actions could include bans on several kinds of single-use packaging, expanding producer responsibility for plastic recycling, stepping up our bottle deposit system, and other appropriate policy or regulatory changes,” the ministry said.

“The co-ordinated series of actions will be announced in the coming weeks and will align with efforts of local and regional governments.

“It will take all levels of government working together to make the difference so many Canadians want to see.”

Municipalities across the province have tackled plastic bags, plastic-foamfood containers, plastic straws and other items in different ways, leading to a patchwork of regulations and timelines.

Surrey wants to ban single-use plastic bags by January 2021, Mayor Doug McCallum announced this week, with a vote on the plan next month.

“In this day and age where we all can play a role in curbing waste and consumption, there is no reason not to have a reusable shopping bag close at hand for bagging groceries or other goods,” said McCallum.

Vancouver has a phased plan to ban plastic straws in April and plastic shopping bags by 2021. The city also banned foam takeout food containers, made using polystyrene, on Jan. 1, due to the difficulty of recycling them.

Meanwhile, the federal government has said it plans to ban single-use plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks as early as 2021.

The B.C. government was dragged into the issue after the City of Victoria tried and failed to ban plastic shopping bags. A city bylaw that forbade businesses from providing plastic bags was struck down by the B.C. Court of Appeal last year after it was found to be an environmental regulation that required approval the city did not have from the provincial government.

The city is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. The city says it has the power to regulate businesses within it boundaries.

The province launched a public consultation on banning certain single-use products, instituting fees on shoppers who forget to bring their own bags, expanding recycling options, and boosting the plastic bottle and beverage container return network. More than 35,000 responses were submitted to a government website devoted to the issue.

A provincial discussion paper noted that a ban on single-use plastic bags comes with consequences, mainly that it requires up to four times as much energy to manufacture a biodegradable paper bag, and produces two times the greenhouse gas emissions as plastics.