A new provincial regulation in British Columbia aims to tackle hard-to-recycle single-use and plastic items, promoting a circular economy and a healthier environment.

The regulation will cover various items like shopping bags, disposable food service accessories, and certain plastics. With requirements starting in December 2023, the government plans to educate the public, allow businesses to use up existing inventory, and complement federal actions on plastic waste.

Province sets single-use plastic requirements

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.

“As part of our government’s CleanBC Plastics Action Plan, the regulation strengthens our efforts to prevent plastic waste and pollution, and ensure a better future for the people of B.C. through a healthier environment,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Focusing on hard-to-recycle single-use and plastic items will help move B.C. to a circular economy where waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are kept in the economy through re-use, and natural systems are regenerated.”

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.

“I am pleased to see our government respond to public calls for further action on plastic waste and pollution,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, and MLA for Vancouver-False Creek. “The new regulation complements and expands on provincial, municipal and federal government actions on plastics by further reducing waste and promoting the use of reusable items.”

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.

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.

“Addressing climate change requires individual and collective action,” said Joan Phillip, MLA-elect for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “Through our government’s waste-reduction policies and programs, we are advancing B.C.’s climate action goals and ensuring a better future for the next generation.” 

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.

B.C. Government News, July 14, 2023.

Read the original news release at news.gov.bc.ca.