Tiny towns on B.C.'s West Coast may be first in province to ban plastic straws
Published Friday, May 3, 2019 10:42AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 3, 2019 10:50AM EDT
Tiny twin towns on B.C.’s West Coast have introduced a ban on plastic straws and single-use plastic bags.
Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island are set to become the first municipalities in the province to ban businesses from using the plastic products when a new joint bylaw comes into effect June 8.
The law will make it illegal for businesses in the area to dispense plastic drinking straws, punishable by fines of $100 for a first offence and $200 for subsequent offences.
“We all need to start taking some measures and I think there’s been a lot more talk than action,” Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel told CTV News Vancouver Island.
“This is a prime example of actually putting some action in towards banning plastic. It’s just really about trying to make conscientious decisions, if we go real pie-in-the sky this could be the first step towards banning water bottles and stuff like that.”
The bylaw would also require businesses to charge customers at least $0.25 for a paper bag and at least $2 for a reusable bag.
If passed in its third reading on May 14 and adopted into law on May 28, the new law would come into effect on June 8, World Oceans Day.
Fines for breaking the bylaw would not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2020.
The idea was put forward by Ucluelet Aquarium and the Pacific Rim chapter of environmental group Surfriders.
“We’ve built incredible momentum with the community here, getting the businesses on board, getting the community on board, seeing what challenges people face and ensuring that this movement is inclusive and equitable for everyone here,” Lilly Woodbury, manager of the Pacific Rim Surfriders, told CTV News Vancouver island.
Surfriders would like to see the ban extended to takeout containers and cutlery by 2022.
There are proposed exemptions to the bylaw which would still allow businesses to freely supply small paper or plastic bags to package things like meat, baked goods and prescription drugs.
Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann, Tofino’s corporate services manager, said it was the first plastic ban in B.C. that she was aware of.
“I think other municipalities across Canada and certainly across the world have taken this step and other steps,” she said.
Vancouver Island’s Qualicum Beach plans to ban single-use plastic bags and straws in July.
B.C.’s capital Victoria has had a single-use plastic bad ban since July last year.
Vancouver's previously announced ban on plastic straws and Styrofoam has been delayed until 2020.
In a decision approved by city council Monday night, the ban on straws and foam containers – which was scheduled to come into full effect on June 1 – was pushed back into early 2020.
The ban on Styrofoam is now set to begin in January 2020 and on plastic straws by April 2020.
Across Canada, momentum continues to build for bans on single-use plastics.
In March 2007, the small town of Leaf Rapids, Man., became the first community in Canada to ban plastic bags. Three other municipalities have had bans there since 2010.
Last month, Newfoundland and Labrador announced it will become the second province to ban plastic bags.
It says the ban won't take effect for between six and 12 months, to give consumers time to get in the habit of bringing reusable bags.
Prince Edward Island passed a similar ban last June, to take effect this coming July 1.
In March, Ontario’s government released a discussion paper on reducing litter and waste, and is asking the public and stakeholders for input on how to best address the problem.
One question it asks is if a ban on single-use plastics would be effective in reducing plastic waste.
The province’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips said it's an area in which the government is “very open.”
Ontario is also mulling a deposit return system for plastic bottles and other containers, as is used in some other provinces.
It's up to individual retailers in Ontario if they want to charge for plastic bags.
In Quebec, dozens of municipalities have bans in place. In Montreal, a draft version of a bylaw banning single-use plastics is expected to be made public this fall.
In Alberta, the municipality of Wood Buffalo has had a ban in place since 2010, with another ban due in Wetaskiwin from July, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
Internationally, single-use plastic bag levies and bans have been in place for years, with Ireland among the first countries to ban the bag in 2002.
The European Union parliament voted overwhelmingly in March to impose a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastics to counter pollution.
In the U.S., California, Hawaii and a number of its territories have banned disposable bags.
--- With files from CTV News Vancouver Island and The Canadian Press