B.C. municipalities back Victoria’s call for ban on disposable plastic packaging

Victoria’s call for a ban on disposable plastic packaging has been unanimously supported by B.C.’s mayors and councillors.

“I think that shows that British Columbia and British Columbians get that single-use plastics probably don’t belong in circulation for very much longer,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Wednesday from the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in Whistler.

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The single-use plastics resolution, unanimously supported by convention delegates, asked the province to work with local governments and retailers to introduce “uniform province-wide business regulations in relation to disposable plastic packaging, to substantially reduce the volume of disposable plastic packaging in local solid waste streams.”

Helps was pleased with the support. She noted that while not every community in the province has a coast line, the unanimous support shows that all are concerned about ocean plastics.

“This is very positive, I think, from an environmental point of view. It’s very positive from a business point of view. It [the resolution] asks for consultation with the business community to overall reduce the use of single-use items in British Columbia and not local government by local government but with the province taking a real leadership role.”

Victoria has imposed a ban on single-use plastic bags. Helps said the city worked with industry for two years before the introduction of its bylaw.

Victoria’s new plastic bag ban officially kicked in July 1 but merchants have until Jan. 1 to deplete their stocks of the plastic bags.

Under the bylaw, businesses may provide paper checkout bags if they tack on a minimum charge of 15 cents per bag (rising to 25 cents on July 1, 2019) and reusable checkout bags for a minimum charge of $1 per bag (rising to $2 in 2019).

While the city’s initial focus will be on education and awareness, as of January enforcement will begin and the city will issue fines to those not in compliance.

Under the bylaw an individual can be fined between $50 and $500, while a corporation can be fined between $100 and $10,000 for violations.

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association challenged the bylaw in court arguing the city does not have jurisdiction under the Community Charter to prohibit businesses from providing plastic bags to customers. The association said the ban amounts to an environmental regulation that needs provincial approval.

But in June, Victoria’s bylaw was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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