West Vancouver council approved Councillor Craig Cameron’s notice asking the province to allow the district to create a bylaw that would regulate or ban the use of single-use plastics in the municipality.
The district is urging the province to either create a similar law or allow local governments to do so.
“Single-use items increase waste, are often not recyclable, and have various negative impacts on communities across British Columbia. Citizens in West Vancouver and other communities have indicated that they would like to see regulations to restrict the use of single-use items in the District of West Vancouver,” states the motion brought forward by Cameron.
Cameron said what that regulation would look like or what specific products would be banned or regulated is a matter of a later community consultation and debate, but for now the district needs to send the province a message on the issue.
“Essentially what we are asking them is the power to take action…We need to show leadership on this,” he said.
The district has to look to the province for approval because the community charter restricts the ability of local governments to independently adopt a bylaw for environmental protection unless the bylaw is established in accordance with provincial regulation. This constrains the ability of local government to independently regulate the reduction or banning of single-use plastic items, Cameron said.
Over the past 10 years, several UBCM resolutions have called upon the province to regulate single-use items, but the province has yet to act decisively, Cameron noted. Last year, a UBCM resolution urged the council to create a strategy to regulate the use of plastic and paper shopping bags, foam cups and containers and other take-out containers, straws and utensils. In response, the province commended the action of local governments to develop single-use items but didn’t do anything to create a specific law to ban or regulate those items.
Several municipalities in British Columbia have recently acted or are in the process of acting to restrict the use of single-use items, including Victoria, Squamish, Salmon Arm, Qualicum Beach, and Tofino, the motion says.
In June last year, a provincial court decided against a court petition by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association to reverse the City of Victoria’s decision to ban single-use plastics. The association claimed the city didn’t have the authority to impose such a ban. The association is taking the City of Victoria to court again in hopes to reverse the earlier decision.
Unless the province acts on its own, any initiative by a local government is bound to face costly and time consuming legal challenges, even if Victoria again wins the appeal, according to Cameron. The motion was unanimously passed by the council to be sent to UBCM conference.