Thanks to a provincial amendment to the Local Government Act, municipalities in British Columbia are now able to ban plastic bags and other single-use plastic items without the need for provincial approval.
In Whistler, city staff are doing their due diligence and aiming for a possible ban on plastic bags and other items in early 2023.
Empowering municipalities to take action has long been a passionate project of Councilor Arthur De Jong, who has discussed the issue with the provincial Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman, on several occasions at the start of his term.
“I think the real message is [that] the door is now opening to the future where we can do a lot more… also with greenhouse gas emissions, so that’s good news, ”said De Jong.
According to the Government of Canada, Canadians use up to 15 billion plastic bags each year and up to 57 million plastic straws are used daily.
In addition, Canadians throw away approximately 3 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, of which only 9% is recycled.
A 2016 World Economic Forum report estimated that the ocean will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and more plastics than fish (by weight) by 2050.
In Canada, the federal government hopes to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
“Socially, we have treated our rivers and oceans like a sewer,” said De Jong.
“So given the response from the federal government and the provincial government, it’s long overdue, but it’s happening, and I’m grateful for it. “
But banning plastic in Whistler is not an overnight decision, and a member of the Whistler Resort Municipality (RMOW) staff member will approach cautiously.
“The pandemic has thrown a wrench into a lot of things, and the last thing the board is going to do is make something more difficult than it has already been for our local businesses,” De Jong said.
“So we want to make sure that there is time, that they can prepare, plan and be financially capable and ready… It’s not just about plastic; it’s about getting to zero waste as soon as possible.
To that end, Whistler’s mayor and council will soon hear a report from RMOW’s zero waste selection committee detailing a comprehensive zero waste plan, De Jong said.
While still in its infancy, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce looks forward to continuing the process with RMOW, said CEO Melissa Pace.
“The House continues to support efforts to protect Whistler’s environment from harmful single-use plastics,” Pace said in an email.
“We look forward to collaborating with RMOW and working with the business community to support innovations that address these concerns and promote sustainable practices. “
According to the provincial government, more than 20 municipalities in British Columbia are currently working on regulations banning single-use plastics. Under the previous regulation, the government approved plastic ban regulations in Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet, Surrey, Saanich, Rossland, Richmond, Nanaimo and Esquimalt.
The change to the Local Government Act, announced on July 27, is only part of the province’s CleanBC Plastics action plan.
“Communities across British Columbia have made it clear that they want to be environmental leaders in taking action to ban single-use plastics,” Heyman said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with all levels of government to protect our lands and waterways from plastic pollution and the damage it creates. Local governments wanted the capacity to act without delay, and now they have it.
Find more information at cleanbc.gov.bc.ca/plastics.