Advocacy | British Columbia | Food & Grocery | Store Operations | Sustainability

B.C. plastic bag ban and single-use item reduction updates

July 12, 2019

Current Status:

As of July 1, 2019, 7 B.C. local governments (Courtenay, Cumberland, Qualicum Beach, Salmon Arm, Tofino, Ucluelet and the City of Victoria) had plastic bag ban bylaws in force.  Saanich, Sooke and Rossland have passed bylaws while Colwood, Comox, Esquimalt, Kamloops, and Nanaimo have bylaws before their respective councils.  (The North Okanagan Regional District board is also considering a bylaw.  Whether regional districts have such authority has not yet been tested.)

Yesterday, a B.C. Court of Appeal decision set aside the City of Victoria’s bylaw.  The City of Victoria is considering their options. The principal reason the City of Victoria bylaw was set aside was because they don’t have jurisdiction without approval from the Province – and they hadn’t sought or received such approval.  The other local governments are in the same position.

RCC has written the Premier and encouraged the Provincial, regional and local governments to support harmonized province-wide action.  In a statement to the media in response to the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, the Ministry of Environment said that it is “looking at ways to prevent plastic waste in our environment at a province-wide level.” (RCC added emphasis.)  The Ministry had earlier indicated it will release an intentions paper on forthcoming actions in the solid waste sphere this summer.

Separately, the City of Vancouver has been working on a single-use item reduction strategy for three years.  City Council passed a bylaw in spring 2019 to ban distribution of plastic straws, polystyrene foam beverage cups and polystyrene take-out food packaging.  This does not impact the sales of packages of straws, cups, utensils, or similar items.  It also does not impact the use of foam packaging to package grocery products such as meat, poultry and fish.  The City of Vancouver has also announced that plastic straws will be banned (the target date is April 1, 2020, though the bylaw has not yet been introduced).  City staff report that the bylaw will include an accessibility requirement that food service establishments provide bendable plastic straws upon request.

Potential Member Action:

Vancouver Council directed staff to consider the City of Victoria’s approach regarding checkout bags.  (Vancouver is governed by different provincial legislation than other local governments and therefore their authority to ban items is untested.)  Vancouver City staff have created a stakeholder survey to gather consultation response to the City of Victoria’s approach: https://www.talkvancouver.com/c/a/68k1F5EiX76LmPxeVjOrL0.  Members with an interest in this issue are encouraged to respond to the survey.

Next Steps:

  1. RCC will continue to engage with the Province, regional and local governments.
  2. RCC will continue to promote a harmonized (nation-wide, or,) province-wide approach to single-use item reduction.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (British Columbia) at gwilson@retailcouncil.org or 604-736-0368.

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