Delta is moving to ban single-use plastic bags and foam containers in the new year.
On Monday, council gave first, second and third reading to a bylaw banning plastic checkout bags and polystyrene foam containers and cups. Final reading will happen “in early 2022,” with the ban coming into effect six months later. Enforcement of the ban, including fines, would not start until a year after final reading.
The move comes three and a half 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 two 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 draft bylaw was designed to closely align with the City of Surrey’s single-use items ban — which the report says comes into effect this month, but which the City of Surrey’s website says came into effect Oct. 19 — to ensure regulations are consistent along Scott Road/120 Street. The proposed bylaw also aligns with Metro Vancouver’s draft regional single-use item regulations.
At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Alicia Guichon asked whether staff had liaised with the Tsawwassen First Nation regarding the bylaw.
Director of corporate services Mel Cheeseman replied that staff have been in discussions with neighbouring groups, and that “certainly we’ll be looking to speak to TFN going into the future.”
Cheeseman said staff were primarily focused on looking at Surrey’s bylaw, but noted “there is is lots of work ongoing in this area federally, provincially and regionally, so we’ve got a good working team together and we’ll be in communication going forward as this rolls out.”
Council then voted unanimously to adopt Guichon’s motion that staff consult with TFN on the proposed bylaw prior to fourth reading.
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 others have 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.
As the Community Charter requires that single-use items bylaws not come into effect until at least six months after they are finally adopted by councils, the city plans to run an outreach and education campaign this fall/winter in the lead up to fourth reading in early 2022.
Once the bylaw is adopted, businesses will be given six months to transition before it comes into effect. The education campaign will continue during that time and include collaboration with the Delta Chamber of Commerce and 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 would not begin for another six months, giving businesses a full year to make the necessary changes.
At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Jeannie Kanakos asked about tightening up the rollout timeline to closer align enforcement of Delta’s bylaw with those of neighbouring cities like Richmond and Surrey. Richmond’s single-use plastics bylaw will come into effect on March 27, 2022, with enforcement to begin Sept. 27, while enforcement of Surrey’s bylaw will begin Jan. 1, 2022.
Mayor George Harvie said the report is clear that enforcement will begin one year after adoption of the bylaw, and that he “really wants to focus on Delta here.”
Harvie then suggested staff report back one year after fourth reading so council can decide how best to enforce the ban.
“I don’t want to see staff going out and start issuing tickets unless council gives the authority to actually start that. I’d be more comfortable with the council of the day receiving a report back from staff after a year of implementation time for council of the day to determine what level of enforcement would take place.”
Harvie said the focus for now should be on warnings and education, adding he has “a lot of confidence” Delta businesses will respect the ban when it comes into effect.
Coun. Dylan Kruger, whose motion over the summer led to the development of the bylaw, said that in his numerous conversations with local businesses, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the Tsawwassen Business Improvement Association, he hasn’t spoken with anyone who is opposed to the ban.
“Every single business association, the Chamber, all the individual businesses that I’ve spoke to are very enthusiastic about this.”
— with files from Ashley Wadhwani and Tom Fletcher