Plastic bags bans have been introduced in 65 countries and Victoria was the first B.C. city to introduce a ban through although it is facing a court challenge. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

Chilliwack backs B.C. plastics action plan overall

Council is firing off a letter commenting on the B.C. plan to pare down plastics pollution

Chilliwack council is basically supportive of the plastics action plan currently being considered across B.C.

City council voted recently to back the provincial Plastics Action Plan to reduce plastic pollution and will follow up by sending a detailed letter to that effect.

However Chilliwack is also requesting that any new bans on flexible plastics are applied at the point of sale or distribution, and that local governments are given the regulatory authority necessary to tackle these problem plastics.

READ MORE: Chilliwack is starting with consultation

But the support from Chilliwack for the B.C. strategy being proposed was not unequivocal, at least not if that means adding more pollution to an already sensitive airshed by incinerating those extra plastic items to turn them into fuel, the letter to the province argues.

It was sometime during the council discussion on Aug. 20 about the idea of banning non-recyclable plastic, like single-use balloons, when Coun. Chris Kloot drew a line in the sand.

“I think everything needs to be done within reason,” Kloot said.

He said he didn’t think their role on council was to take “the joy out of balloons” which are popular at kids’ birthday parties but also a pollution problem.

Sometimes governments can get “self-righteous” on these matters, and “I think we have to be careful,” Kloot cautioned.

Coun. Harv Westeringh wanted to know if the action plan comprised all four action areas together, or if it was an either-or situation, and was told it was likely a combination of the four.

Coun. Bud Mercer said “aside from balloons” it would make sense to try to prevent plastic pollution “at the source” rather than trying to recover it after the fact.

“I think we should wear it as a badge of honour,” to focus on taking a leadership role rather than following, he said.

The action plan being proposed has four solutions:

1) Bans on single-use packaging: defining which plastic packaging to phase out altogether, as well as any exemptions, such as those for health, safety and accessibility, to keep products available for those who need them;

2) Dramatically reduce single-use plastics: requiring producers to take responsibility, ensuring more single-use items like sandwich bags, straws and cutlery get recycled;

3) Plastic bottle and beverage container returns: expanding the deposit-refund system to cover all beverage containers – including milk and milk-substitutes – with a 10- cent refundable deposit, keeping millions more containers out of landfills and waterways;

4) Reducing plastic waste overall: supporting effective ways to prevent plastic waste in the first place and making sure recycled plastic is reused effectively.

Chilliwack officials will be firing off a letter to the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy officials shortly to offer feedback on the policy consultation paper as requested of local governments, after the Plastics Action Plan was released last month from Victoria.

“The City is supportive of bans on plastic packaging materials that are currently not recyclable,” the letter from Chilliwack declares.

A draft copy of the letter was contained in a detailed staff report from the Aug. 20 meeting, and supports expanding the scope to include other flexible plastic packaging, like chip bags, or meat packaging, which are being transformed into a “refuse derived” fuel source through incineration until other options are developed.

“Air quality is of paramount importance to residents of the Fraser Valley, which is a confined airshed. The City is concerned that efforts to divert these materials from landfilling may result in decreased air quality for its residents,” according to the letter from Chilliwack. “Recycle BC has thus far been unable to provide evidence proving that stack emissions from its refuse derived fuel are cleaner than the fuel sources it is purported to displace.”

The letter said Chilliwack will also support provincial bans on single-use items, “such as checkout bags, foam cups and containers, straws, and disposable cups, and other plastic take-out containers, as well as single-use plastic products that cause demonstrable harm to the environment, such as balloons.”

Chilliwack officials believe that “bans on plastic packaging and single-use items” are best suited for implementation at higher levels of government in order to create uniformity for businesses and residents across regions.

“However, local governments should still be given the authority to enact bans or other regulatory measures on plastic or other single-use items in situations where the item is causing environmental harm or creating an economic burden to manage within the community,” the letter continued.

The idea of bringing problem plastics into the recycling stream didn’t go over well unless the cities get more regulatory power for enforcement.

”The environmental risks posed by these materials are significantly reduced by cutting them off at the source through bans, and local governments are not tasked with managing the recovery of additional materials with already limited resources.

“Should the Province wish to pursue adding additional single-use items to the Recycling Regulation, then the City would recommend that local governments be given the authority to enact bans or other regulatory measures on these materials.”

Feedback on the Plastics Action Plan is being accepted by provincial officials until Sept. 18.

• To complete public survey go to

https://cleanbc.gov.bc.ca/plastics

• To send formal submission email Plastics@gov.bc.ca

• Email comments to: Plastics@gov.bc.ca

• Or mail Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – Recycling Regulation Amendments, PO Box 9341 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, B.C., V8W9M1
READ MORE: Efforts at the federal level could take a while

@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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