BC looks for input on reducing plastic waste

The BC government is asking British Columbians for input on cutting plastic waste. UBC photo via Twitter.

The government of British Columbia is looking for public input on ways to cut plastic waste that is polluting the province’s waterways, environment and landfills.

British Columbians are invited to share their opinions in an online survey and read the Province’s consultation paper.

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said “we need to take action to reduce plastic waste, especially single-use items like water bottles and plastic bags that often find their way into our waters, streets and environment.”

The Horgan government is proposing action in four connected areas to cut plastic pollution and reduce the overall use of plastic:

  • Bans on single-use packaging: determining which types of plastic packaging to phase out altogether, as well as any necessary exemptions, such as those for health, safety and accessibility, to keep products available for the people who need them
  • Dramatically reduce single-use plastics in landfills and waterways: requiring producers to take responsibility for more plastic products, ensuring more single-use items like sandwich bags, straws and cutlery get recycled
  • 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
  • Reducing plastic waste overall: supporting effective ways to prevent plastic waste in the first place and making sure recycled plastic is reused effectively

As well, the existing program for packaging and paper products was recently expanded to include other soft plastics, including laminated/zippered pouches, crinkly plastics such as bags in cereal boxes and foil-lined potato chip bags, all of which can be taken to almost 200 recycling depots throughout the province.

“B.C.’s system is the envy of North America,” said Brock Macdonald, CEO, Recycling Council of BC. “By bringing industry to the table, extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs make it possible for materials to be recycled much more efficiently.”

The province’s 22 industry-led EPR recycling programs cover 14 different product categories of consumer products such as packaging, electronics and electrical products, residual solvents, beverage containers, tires and household hazardous wastes.

Macdonald added “That’s good for business and good for the environment. Today’s addition is a targeted and strategic increase to B.C.’s already expansive series of EPR programs.”

The government says it is also reviewing ways to make plastic recycling easier, including a proposed system of electronic refunds for empty bottle returns.  Such a system would eliminate the need to sort bottles as well as provide the consumer with the option to have refunds processed electronically or donated to local organizations.

Lilly Woodbury, representative for Surfrider Foundation Canada  says her organization strongly supports the government’s decision to cut and eliminate plastic waste and pollution.

“This timely discussion will set out the next major steps in British Columbia’s ongoing efforts to build a prosperous and pollution-free province,” said Woodbury. “We highly encourage all British Columbians to step up and be heard at this crucial time.”

British Columbia is currently working with its Canadian counterparts to develop national standards that specify the minimum amount of recycled plastic in new packaging and products.

According to a press release from the BC government, these proposed changes support the Province’s CleanBC efforts to reduce pollution and divert waste from landfills.

“We have a responsibility to British Columbians to curb the significant impacts of plastic pollution on our environment and marine life,” said Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party caucus.

The survey will be available until Sept. 18, 2019.




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