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Victoria pushing for B.C.-wide ban on disposable plastic packaging

Victoria is asking the province for uniform, province-wide business regulations to ban disposable plastic packaging.

Victoria is asking the province for uniform, province-wide business regulations to ban disposable plastic packaging.

“If the province takes a leadership role, each municipality doesn’t have to spend time working through developing their own bylaws,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

 Plastic shopping bags/ShutterstockPlastic shopping bags/Shutterstock

The city’s resolution on plastic packaging is one of seven Victoria has put forth for debate at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Whistler beginning Sept. 10. Cities, towns and regional districts from Vancouver Island will put forth 30 resolutions for discussion.

“Victoria has been on the leading edge in Canada in terms of the nature of our bylaw but our hope with the UBCM resolution is that that the province can take up the charge,” said Helps, in reference to the ban on plastics.

Victoria introduced its ban on single-use plastic bags at store checkouts on July 1. Shops have until the end of the year to use existing stock. There’s a charge for paper and reusable bags.

Victoria tackled the problem from a waste-management perspective — trying to reduce the approximate 17 million plastic bags that end up annually at Hartland landfill — and has the power to regulate business but “taking care of the environment is a provincial issue,” she said.

The single-use plastics resolution asks the province to work with local governments and retailers, noting Victoria worked with industry for two years before the introduction of its bylaw. “Unrestricted use of disposable plastic packaging is inconsistent with the values of British Columbia residents,” says the resolution, which cites any type of disposable single-use plastic packaging.

Saanich is drafting a report on the next steps toward considering a bylaw change to ban single-use plastic bags, based on the Victoria model.

On June 8, Prince Edward Island passed legislation to prohibit businesses from handing out single-use plastic bags — a law that resembled the plastic-bag bylaw in Victoria, said the Retail Council of Canada. The law comes into effect next year.

“I think it’s a really strong argument that we can make at UBCM that P.E.I. has already taken literally, word for word, Victoria’s bylaw and made this decision for the entire province. If P.E.I. can do it, then British Columbia can do it as well,” Helps said.

“The province can literally just copy Prince Edward Island and start with single-use plastic bags,” she said. “The resolution calls for something broader than that, but it doesn’t mean you have to wait to do a comprehensive assessment of every single-use plastic item before you take any action.”

Victoria’s bylaw banning single-use plastic bags was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court after a challenge by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association which argued the city does not have jurisdiction under the Community Charter to prohibit businesses from providing plastic bags to their customers — suggesting it’s an environmental regulation that needs provincial approval.

The association is appealing.

The UBCM resolutions committee membership says it has consistently endorsed resolutions seeking provincial regulations to reduce the volume of disposable plastic packaging in waste streams.