Plastics at a depot in North Vancouver on June, 10, 2019. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last June the government was getting ready to prohibit production and sale of single-use plastics in Canada, such as drinking straws, takeout containers and plastic cutlery. The pandemic has slowed these efforts. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Pandemic has slowed efforts to reduce single-use plastics in Chilliwack

Most survey respondents were in favour of some sort of restrictions and educational efforts

The streets may be drowning in plastic litter but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed Chilliwack’s plan to regulate and reduce single-use plastics.

The City of Chilliwack is not alone in this regard however, as similar delays across other B.C. cities and jurisdictions are being reported. That was the gist of a staff report received by Chilliwack city council on July 21, detailing results from the public consultation initiated last year.

The survey results showed that most Chilliwackians were in favour of some sort of restrictions and educational efforts to ban single-use plastics.

“Most residents felt that action needs to be taken on single-use items, including education and bylaws regulating their use,” according to the staff report.

READ MORE: Chilliwack considering ban on plastics

“Businesses that did participate in consultation were willing to implement measures that make it easier for customers to bring in reusable alternatives and were open to regulation, so long as it did not negatively affect customer service.”

But COVID-19 changed things, in order to reduce risk of transmission, reusable bags, mugs and containers stopped being accepted at many retailers back in March.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) stipulated that customers must not use their own containers for take-out food orders.

The BCCDC has since eased earlier restrictions on reusable grocery bags and beverage containers, but measures are still in place to minimize risk to workers. Major grocery chains recently began allowing reusable bags back in stores, with restrictions such as requiring customers to bag their own items and keep the bags off store surfaces.

But coffee shop chains are still not accepting reusable beverage containers.

Council received the report last month, and directed staff to continue monitoring federal, provincial, and other local government initiatives related to single-use item reduction, with the intent that a Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy and implementation of reduction initiatives will resume when feasible from a public health and financial perspective.

Here is more from the staff report:

“Single-use items comprise a significant volume of litter and waste generated in Chilliwack. There has been growing public interest in having government step in to provide education and regulate their use in recent years.

“Public and business consultation determined that there is local support for reduction initiatives in Chilliwack; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated their implementation.

“Delaying implementation will allow businesses to focus on the current challenges being caused by the pandemic and will assist with ultimately achieving support for the initiative at a later date.”

READ MORE: Students petition Chilliwack to ban plastics

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