Street trash is often a swirling medley of takeout containers, cups, plastic bags and straws.
City council is embarking on a process to reduce single-use plastics and other materials sullying the streetscape.
“We want to keep Chilliwack a great place to live, so we are looking into what more can be done to reduce waste and eliminate litter in Chilliwack,” said Mayor Ken Popove.
Council voted Tuesday to issue a request for proposals (RFP) and hire a consultant to lead “a comprehensive public and stakeholder consultation process” and to choose the best mechanism for Chilliwack to reduce single-use plastics.
“Addressing the challenges created by single-use items is complex and affects all residents in Chilliwack, as well as a significant number of commercial operations,” according to the staff report. “Therefore, a holistic approach to managing single-use items that encompasses both legislative and educational tools suited to individual communities may be required.”
The mayor called the decision to take action as a council “a long time coming.”
Many municipalities across Canada are also taking similar steps now to address the problem of packaging and plastics within their jurisdictions. Victoria opted to ban plastic bags although it is dealing with a court challenge, while Vancouver is targeting straws and foam containers specifically. Several smaller communities have recently announced plastic-bag bans, like Tofino, Ucluelet, Rossland, and Salmon Arm.
It’s a multifaceted issue facing many communities, and plastics aren’t the only problem as these materials can contain plastic, Styrofoam, and paper — or a combination of those.
Staff estimated it would take until spring 2021 to implement a made-for-Chilliwack strategy, and the consultation process would cost an estimated $50,000.
Coun. Bud Mercer called it “outstanding news” but said he was worried the consultant might “study this to death” rather than taking action in a timely fashion.
Coun. Jason Lum said that a two-year timeline is “too long” to get a reduction strategy in place, and that Chilliwack needs to “move quicker.”
Coun. Chris Kloot said after the public consultation process, he would like to see a review of best practices across Canada in terms of dealing with plastics.
Consultation and data gathering by the consultant could include: an assessment of single-use items in the waste stream, the costs borne by the City to manage single-use items, public perception of single-use items and interest in management tools, and the ability of stakeholders to adapt to and/or facilitate said management tools, according to staff.
“Due to the complexity of the issue, a sustainable long-term solution that balances the interests of the public, stakeholder groups, and local businesses will require extensive dialogue, research, and review,” said the report. “The experience of Vancouver and Victoria indicates that this increases buy-in to the proposed solution.”
The consultant will assess how single-use items are “currently perceived, used, and managed” in Chilliwack. Data could include the extent of single-use items in the waste stream, the costs borne by Chilliwack to manage them, public perception and interest in management tools, and the ability of stakeholders to adapt to and/or facilitate changes.
“Under the Community Charter, municipalities in British Columbia are not able to pass legislation for the protection of the environment without provincial approval,” the staff report continued. “However, municipalities are able to regulate businesses within their boundaries through licensing, which may include banning the sale or provision of single-use items.”