B.C. sets single-use plastic rules

A new provincial regulation will expand B.C.’s efforts to tackle hard-to-recycle single-use and plastic items.

The Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation will cover shopping bags, disposable food service accessories, oxo-degradable plastics and food service packaging made of polystyrene foam, PVC, PVDC, compostable or biodegradable plastics.

The requirements will start to come into force in December 2023. This will give six months to educate the public and businesses about the new requirements, and allow time for businesses to use up existing inventory.

Since the province launched the CleanBC Action Plan in 2019, 21 municipalities have established bylaws to limit single-use plastics in their communities.

The federal government is also regulating single-use plastics that are harmful to the environment. In December 2022, the manufacturing and importing of six plastic items were prohibited (plastic checkout bags, drinking straws, cutlery, stir sticks, ring carriers and food-service ware made from plastics). Sales of these items will be banned as of Dec. 20, 2023.

“The region’s residents disposed of 1.3 billion single-use items in 2022, and reducing waste while maximizing the reuse, recycling, and recovery of materials is a significant focus of Metro Vancouver’s work,” said George Harvie, chair, Metro Vancouver board of directors.

“We applaud this provincial regulatory framework for single-use and plastic items, which will help us achieve reduction goals and address the challenges with compostables and hard-to-recycle plastics.”

B.C.’s regulation improves on these measures to limit the use of many single-use items, promote reusables and eliminate the use of additional items. Over their life cycle, reusable products generally produce fewer emissions, consume less water, and decrease waste, litter and pollution compared to disposable alternatives.

Other actions to address plastic waste and pollution include:

  • amending a regulation to enable local governments to ban plastic shopping bags and certain single-use plastics;
  • adding milk and milk-substitute beverage containers to B.C.’s deposit-refund system to capture the millions of containers from restaurants, schools and offices without a dedicated recycling system;
  • adding all residential single-use and packaging-like products to B.C.’s recycling stream;
  • investing nearly $40 million in the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund, which supports B.C.-based innovators to reduce plastic waste, reuse items and include more recycled material in the manufacturing of products;
  • supporting the largest shoreline cleanup in B.C.’s history through Clean Coast, Clean Waters, with more than 1,500 tonnes of marine debris removed to date, and more than 60% of shoreline material reused/recycled; and
  • phasing in the recycling of new products, such as electric vehicle batteries, mattresses, compressed canisters and medical sharps over the next four years under the Extended Producer Responsibility Five-Year Plan.