Delta council has approved a bylaw banning single-use plastic bags and foam containers.
On Monday (Dec. 6), council gave final reading to a bylaw banning plastic checkout bags and polystyrene foam containers and cups. The ban will come into effect in six months, though enforcement — including fines — will not start for a year.
The move comes a little over four months after Environment Minister George Heyman announced amendments to regulations under the Community Charter that would allow local governments to implement bans on bags and other single-use plastic items without having to get provincial approval, and five weeks after Heyman introduced changes to the Environmental Management Act to “establish province-wide bans on the sale, distribution or use of prescribed single-use and short-term products, to apply fees on alternatives to single-use products where necessary, and/or require that businesses make items available only by request.”
According to a staff report to council, Delta’s bylaw was designed to closely align with the City of Surrey’s single-use items ban — which the City of Surrey’s website came into effect Oct. 19 — to ensure regulations are consistent along Scott Road/120 Street. The bylaw also aligns with Metro Vancouver’s draft regional single-use item regulations.
Once the bylaw comes into effect, it will generally prohibit businesses from using single-use plastic checkout bags, except for items such as meat or frozen food, plants, prepared foods, bulk items, prescription drugs, printed materials, linens and laundry. Customers could still use their own plastic bags or use bags that have been returned to businesses in order to be reused by others.
Businesses will only be allowed to provide customers with paper or reusable checkout bags — at a cost of at least $0.25 and $2, respectively, to help stores offset the cost of switching from plastic bags to more expensive alternatives.
The bylaw will also prohibit businesses from providing prepared food in any container made of polystyrene foam, with exceptions for hospitals, community care facilities and food containers that were filled and sealed outside of Delta prior to arriving at the business.
The report notes that while the new provincial rules allow cities to also regulate items such as plastic straws and utensils, staff will report back to council with any recommendations for banning those items after Metro Vancouver’s board approves its draft regional harmonized single-use plastics ban “to ensure that Delta’s bylaw is as consistent as possible with other municipalities in the region.”
Fines for contravention of Delta’s bylaw will be set at $200, which the report notes is within the range ($75-$500) and near the average of other single-use items bylaws in B.C.
“However, the focus early in the implementation phase would be on education and awareness rather than enforcement,” the report states.
B.C.’s Community Charter requires that single-use items bylaws not come into effect until at least six months after they are finally adopted by councils, giving businesses time to make the transition away from plastic.
The City of Delta will run an education campaign during that time, including collaboration with the Delta Chamber of Commerce and other business associations, direct mail-outs to affected businesses, toolkits and resources for businesses, advertisements in newspapers, a dedicated web page and social media posts.
Enforcement of the bylaw will not begin until six months after it comes into effect, giving businesses a full year to make the necessary changes.
— with files from Ashley Wadhwani, Tom Fletcher