Banning plastic bags must be done by cities — not regional districts | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Banning plastic bags must be done by cities — not regional districts

November 18, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The Regional District of North Okanagan is not going ahead with a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags after finding out it does not have the legal authority to do so.

Almost 18 months after giving the green light to a ban on single-use plastic bags, the Regional District North Okanagan has shelved its bylaw because a legal review concluded that it does not have "clear authority" to regulate single-use plastic checkout bags.

According to a Nov. 18 regional district report, municipalities and cities in B.C. can draft their own plastic bag ban bylaws, but the Regional District doesn't have the authority under the Local Government Act or Community Charter.

The news comes almost a year-and-a-half after elected officials at the Regional District voted unanimously in July 2019 to ban plastic bags. Ordinarily, the move would have meant a ban would have come into place shortly afterwards. However, the Regional District's vote came just days after the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the City of Victoria's plastic bag ban and implemented in its ruling that local governments needed provincial approval before outlawing plastic bags.

While the regional district can't implement a ban, the individual municipalities and Electoral Areas could choose to implement their own single-use plastic bylaws.

According to the Regional District report, more than 23 communities across the province have been actively developing bans to address single-use plastic items. The report also says the Regional District of North Okanagan is the only Regional District in B.C. to have put forward a plastic bag ban. 

The City of Salmon Arm was one of the first to bring in a ban, which was implemented July 1, 2019, and included a six-month transition period for businesses to switch over.  The Court of Appeal decision came just two weeks later and according to the regional district's report, the bylaw is currently on hold.

The City of Kamloops also moved to ban plastic carryout bags just days before the Court of Appeal ruling delayed the process.

While the Regional District won't be able to ban plastic bags, individual cities can and the Ministry of Environment announced in September it had approved single-use plastic bans in Richmond, Victoria, Saanich, Tofino and Ucluelet. The province also announced it was moving towards creating regulations to allow cities to pass the bans themselves without getting ministerial approval.

The federal government has also stepped into the picture and announced in October plans to ban single-use plastics including checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food that are made from hard to recycle plastics. The federal government has said regulations would be finalized by the end of 2021.

While the Court of Appeal ruling delayed cities and municipalities across the province from implementing single-use plastic bag bans, the COVID-19 pandemic then saw grocery stores refuse to let customers use reusable bags.

In January the City of Vancouver banned foam cups and takeout containers but since the pandemic has said it is using discretion on when and where to enforce the bylaws.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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