A pile of plastic shopping bags. (Black Press file photo)

A pile of plastic shopping bags. (Black Press file photo)

Surrey moves to ban plastic shopping bags and foam cups, and stiffens tree-cutting fines

Plastic bags bylaw now goes to Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for approval

Surrey city council chose its final meeting of 2020 to OK two bylaws that, in city hall’s words, “will make for a positive environmental impact on the City.”

On Monday (Dec. 21), the council approved a Plastic Bags and Single-Use Items Bylaw that bans plastic shopping bags, foam cups and foam take-out containers.

The council also green-lit amendments to the Surrey Tree Protection Bylaw that will see penalties “substantially” increased for illegally-cut trees, to as much as $20,000 for a significant one.

It’s all part of the council “renewing its focus on our environment,” according to Mayor Doug McCallum.

The passed bylaws are “a precursor of the priorities we will be placing on bettering Surrey’s environment in the new year,” he stated in a news release Tuesday (Dec. 22).

The plastic bags bylaw has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for formal approval, with proposed fines of up to $10,000.

• RELATED STORY, from January 2020: Victoria’s plastic-bag ban ended by Supreme Court of Canada.

Under Surrey’s bylaw, businesses will be prohibited from providing and distributing plastic checkout bags to customers, including those bags labelled as “compostable” or “biodegradable,” according to a corporate report. “A list of exemptions is included in the Bylaw, such as plastic bags used to package bulk foods, produce, frozen foods, meat, small hardware items (such as nails and bolts), as well as other similar items.”

Also, the bylaw suggests fees for paper and reusable bags “to ensure that it does not result in unintended consequences where consumers simply substitute plastic with paper bags,” the report says. “While the use of reusable bags is encouraged, as they reduce waste and litter, a fee implemented to the purchase of reusable bags will prevent residents from purchasing one during each store visit.”

The proposed fees are at least 25 cents for paper bags, and at least $2 for reusable bags.

As for foam take-out containers and cups, businesses will be prohibited from providing and distributing all white and coloured polystyrene foam take-out containers and cups for the purpose of serving or transporting prepared food.

“There are other environmentally friendly alternatives readily available for businesses, such as rigid plastic containers which can be recycled in residential curbside programs and fibre-based material which can be composted in curbside organics programs,” notes the report to council.

The provisions will be exempt for hospitals and community care facilities, as “these organizations depend on (single-use items) to eliminate the increased risk of patient-to-patient contamination that may be present in these facilities, and to meet patient care standards. In addition, a temporary exemption for a one-year period will be provided to charitable food providers.”

On Tuesday, Surrey Board of Trade applauded the city’s Plastic Ban Bylaw, but called for a phased-in approach.

“While it does not align completely with the Surrey Board of Trade’s 2019 policy calling for the phasing out single-use plastics, it is a step in the right direction,” stated Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade. “There are innovative industry opportunities that are available now, or that can be developed, that will lead to new employment opportunities.”

Huberman said the City of Surrey “must consult with the business community and introduce a phased in approach to allow the economy to react to the incoming ban.

“Although there is no set date for communication, education, or implementation as of yet, we urge the City to ensure adequate consultation occurs before a blanket ban is implemented.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Surrey councillor wants to ban single-use plastic bags, straws.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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