In an end to a two-year-long saga, a ban on single use plastic bags in Victoria will finally become an official bylaw according to an announcement Saturday afternoon.
The provincial government has approved plastic bag ban bylaw in municipalities that have applied for them—Victoria, Saanich, Richmond, Tofino, and Ucluelet—and will consider similar bylaws for any other local governments that submit applications.
Victoria, in particular, implemented a plastic bag ban in July 2018 with approval from the BC Supreme Court.
However one year later, after resistance from the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, an appellate court quashed the bylaw, ruling that the City of Victoria enacted their plastic bag ban to facilitate the protection of the natural environment, which is a decision that requires approval from the provincial Minster of Environment
The main issue, therefore, was that the City did not seek approval from the Minister of Environment in accordance with the Community Charter, S.B.C. 2003, c. 26.
A little over a year after that ruling, the Minister of Environment spoke out in favour of plastic bag ban bylaws across the province.
“People have been consistent and vocal about the need to take serious action now on plastic waste and pollution, and we have heard the message loud and clear,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“Even in the face of current economic downturns, local governments and businesses have told us they remain committed to preventing millions of single-use plastic products from damaging the environment, polluting B.C.’s waters, harming wildlife and increasing costs for taxpayers.”
Moving forward, the province is also proposing to draft a new regulation under the Community Charter that would allow municipalities to impose bans on other single use plastic products, like plastic straws and polystyrene foam take-out containers, without requiring approval from the provincial government.
The Ministry of Environment is also considering adding recycling programs for items like mattresses, electric-vehicle batteries, and propane canisters, and looking at how to improve recycling of packaging in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector.
Further, the province is introducing a minimum 10 cent deposit on all beverage containers, and adding milk and milk-alternative containers to the deposit and refund system for the first time ever.
The deposit-refund system has also been approved for electronic refunds to make recycling easier, through a cash-less low touch system that is particularly effective during a global pandemic.
“Victoria’s bylaw banning plastic bags was one of the first in the country. Thanks to its implementation, more than 17 million plastic bags stay out of the landfill annually,” said Victoria mayor Lisa Helps in a statement.
“Victoria residents and businesses deserve a great deal of thanks for making the transition so seamless.”
These new measures by the Ministry of Environment are attributed to feedback from British Columbians during the CleanBC Plastic Action Plan engagement process.