Vancouver is set to ban single-use plastic bags starting in 2022 and join nine other cities in B.C. with similar bans
Shoppers will have no choice but to change their behaviour in 2022 when a ban on single-use plastic bags comes into effect in Vancouver.
Starting Jan. 1, a new city bylaw means retailers can no longer provide customers with single-use plastic bags. Instead, they have to charge a minimum of 15 cents for paper bags and $1 for reusable bags. Single-use cups will cost 25 cents.
Laura Hardman, director of Plastic Free Oceans at Ocean Wise Conservation Association, admitted the ban means people will have to change their behaviour.
Hardman said while the shift may be inconvenient for some, talking about the kind of bags we use at the grocery store checkout is the kind of environmental conversation everyone needs to have.
“If we keep trying to live the same lifestyle where we do know we’re over-consuming and producing too much waste, we’re not going to have the impact we want and live in harmony with the environment,” she said.
Changing behaviour may be as simple as grabbing a canvas bag whenever you go shopping. For others, it can mean putting groceries back in their shopping cart after checkout and then transferring them into boxes in the trunk of their car.
Vancouver’s ban on single-use plastics is part of much larger national and international efforts to eliminate plastic waste from the environment.
Vancouver joins nine other cities in B.C., including Surrey and Richmond in the region, which have implemented similar bans on single-use plastics such as bags.
Across Canada, more than 70 cities have passed similar bans, as have Nova Scotia and PEI.
Jens Allerdissen, the manager at Mother Nature’s Market and Deli in Victoria, said his store hasn’t used plastic bags since Victoria became the first in B.C. to ban single-use plastics in 2018 — even though legal challenges meant the ban didn’t come into full legal effect until April of this year.
He said most customers have accepted the ban, although he admitted that at a store that focuses on organic foods there is probably a higher awareness of, and support for, not littering with plastic than at other retailers.
“That being said, sometimes customers are not happy. They say, ‘Why would I need to pay 15 cents for a bag?’” Allerdissen said. “We’ve always been able to reason and explain why.”
He estimated that about 50 per cent of customers bring their own bags.
“About the single-use plastic ban — make it happen as quickly as possible, everywhere.”
Statistics from Ocean Wise, a Vancouver-based global conservation group, estimate that between five to 13 million tonnes a year of plastics end up as waste in the world’s oceans.
As local governments move to ban single-use plastics, the federal government is proposing a national ban, to join 35 other countries that have instituted similar bans on single-use plastics such as cutlery and six-pack rings. The federal ban isn’t expected to come into effect until sometime next year.
Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada based in Ottawa, said B.C. has created “the most effective recycling system anywhere in North America.”
He estimated that about 50 per cent of post-consumer packaging is recycled in B.C. — about five times the national average.
“One of the main reasons why that is so effective is that you now have a harmonized approach to recycling across the entire province,” he said. “People know whether they’re at work, play or at home, they recycle the same things in the same way.”
He said the industry believes that a ban should apply provincially or nationally rather than on a city-by-city basis.
“We would encourage municipalities to take a deep breath for another year so the federal regulations will be in place.”
He acknowledged that the plastic industry has a waste problem.
“How do we transition the rest of the country to the B.C. model and even go further?
“You’ve done something great in B.C. as a model for the rest of the country. That’s where our energy is focused.”