RCC is concerned that new legislation introduced by the B.C. government will establish precedents in other jurisdictions that will have negative cost, operational and environmental outcomes. Bill 24, introduced on October 26, would amend the Environmental Management Act (EMA) to provide government with the authority to regulate the material used for product packaging and single-use items that are used, distributed, and sold in B.C. That authority would extend to packaging used, distributed, or sold separately from the product.
The definition of single-use item added to the legislation reads: “’single-use product’ means a product that is ordinarily disposed of after a single-use or short-term use, whether or not the product could be reused.” This is different than wording used elsewhere.
An amendment to the definition of ‘packaging’ clarifies that marketing or communications items attached to, or provided with, products could also be subject to limitation. Added to existing legislation are the word ‘material’ and the phrase ‘single-use products’ which will permit the minister to regulate not only the content, shape, nature and weight of the packaging but also the material used, and extends the ability beyond packaging itself to include single-use products as defined by the legislation.
RCC notes that the local governments have asked for the power to regulate the distribution, sale and use of ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ take-out food packaging noting that these items are a common contaminant in both organic collection programs and in Recycle BC’s blue box collection system. This legislation could result in a patchwork regime of regulations resulting in business and consumer confusion, increased costs and operational complexities and reduce the potential for beneficial environmental outcomes. The minister has used his existing power under the EMA not only to regulate on behalf of the province, but also delegated that authority to local governments resulting in a patchwork of different systems in neighbouring municipalities.