In 2022, the disposal of over 1.3 billion single-use plastic items in Metro Vancouver - or just over 400 items per person - underscored the urgent need to address plastic pollution, both locally and globally. Plastic waste has emerged as an escalating environmental crisis, adversely impacting habitats, natural processes, and human livelihoods.
Recognizing the complex challenges posed by plastic pollution, the BC government has taken decisive action by expanding the province’s efforts to tackle hard–to-recycle single-use plastics. The comprehensive initiative aims to curb plastic pollution and promote the transition to a circular economy for the province of British Columbia. The announcement was made on Friday, July 14th, at the ShareWares facility in Vancouver, located on the shared, unceded, and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
What’s Getting Banned?
The Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation targets the waste and pollution caused by single-use items, including:
Disposable food service accessories
Ex. Cup lids and sleeves, condiments, drinking straws, utensils
Food service ware
Ex. Bowls, boxes, cups, containers, plates, platters, trays, and film wraps
Oxo-degradable plastics (plastics with additives designed to break down into microplastics)
These items are often difficult to collect and recycle and typically end up in landfills or as litter. Certain sectors, like healthcare, will have exceptions to use phased-out items upon request. However, businesses will be encouraged to explore alternative options and may implement fees for replacement alternatives.
Reusable cups offered by ShareWares. (Flickr)
The ban on the sales of these plastics is set to take effect on December 20, 2023
The six-month window provided supports businesses in using up existing stock and enables individuals to become familiar with the changes, according to the government’s website. The regulations are part of the broader Clean BC Action Plan launched in 2019, which includes a range of actions to reduce plastic waste, clean up BC’s shorelines, and expand recycling and recovery of plastics that will continue being used. Since then, 21 municipalities have established bylaws to limit single-use plastics in their communities. The consistency and harmonization achieved through regulation further supports businesses and communities in implementing sustainable practices effectively.
During the announcement at ShareWares, Minister Heyman emphasized the importance of the transition to a circular economy. The circular economy is a model where waste is designed out, products and materials are kept in use for as long as possible, and natural resources are regenerated.
Want to learn more? Check out our blog about the circular economy here.
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.
George Heyman, BC’s minister of the environment, announces new single-use plastic regulations at ShareWares on Friday, July 14, 2023. (Flickr)
This ban also aligns with federal regulations, making it a unified effort against plastic pollution across Canada. In December 2022, the federal government prohibited the manufacturing and importing of six plastic items:
Food-service ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics (ex. styrofoam)
Lyndsay Poaps, executive director of the Recycling Council of British Columbia, emphasized the importance of reducing fossil fuel-based single-use products for human and planetary health. She stated, “Regulating single-use and plastic items provincewide, and harmonizing that regulation with those of senior government, will help BC evolve to a more circular economy."
ShareWares, a Vancouver-based platform offering reusable cups and containers, expressed its commitment to waste reduction and a circular economy. The company provides reusable alternatives that can be borrowed, enjoyed, returned to the city-wide collection network. These alternatives are brought back to the Olympic Facility WashLab, cleaned and sanitized, and redistributed to the community.
Cody Irwin, founder and CEO of ShareWares, said,
"For humans to live sustainably on this planet, we need to ditch the throw-away lifestyle and get excited and jazzed about reuse and the circular economy.
“We are excited to see waste reduction regulations rolling out in B.C. and to be a part of a growing movement of businesses dedicated to making a positive difference in our community and the environment."
ShareWares is a Vancouver-based reusables company. (Flickr)
At ShareWares, we agree with the UN that we will not recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis: we need a systemic transformation to achieve the transition to a circular economy.
The BC government's decisive action to expand the single-use plastics ban, with its six-month transition period, marks a crucial step towards combating plastic pollution and promoting a circular economy. By targeting hard-to-recycle items and harmonizing regulations, British Columbia is poised to lead the way in creating a cleaner and more sustainable future for its residents and the environment.