The Fraser Valley’s patchwork of plastic bans

The Fraser Valley's approach to plastic bans is anything but cohesive

By Tyler Olsen | July 6, 2021 |10:21 am

If the future of the Fraser Valley’s proposed plastic bans seems as unclear as a plastic grocery store bag, that’s because it is.

The Fraser Valley may soon have a patchwork of policies on single-use plastics, as two municipalities move to institute their own bans on items like straws and bags. Others, however, are taking a wait-and-see approach to the whole issue, which made headlines in 2019 before receding into the background of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Chilliwack finished work on rules that would ban plastic bags and straws (except for accessibility reasons). It has now sent the bylaw to the province for approval. If it is approved, Chilliwack would become the first major Fraser Valley city with such a bylaw. Harrison Hot Springs also has a proposed bylaw in front of the province. Chilliwack’s would also impose a levy on plastic cups and take effect next year. Harrison’s bylaw would ban plastic cups entirely.

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It’s unclear when the province may approve the bans. When it does, it may approve them at the same time. In February, the province approved four cities’ single-use bylaws: Surrey, Esquimalt, Nanaimo, and Rossland. Of those, Surrey passed its bylaw only 2 months prior, while Esquimalt’s had been approved back in 2019.

It’s unclear if all the work will really be necessary. The federal government says it is planning to ban six plastic products deemed harmful for the environment: bags, straws, cutlery, drink stirrers, plastic food containers, and six-pack rings. Last month, it tweaked its laws to consider plastic officially toxic. That has left some municipalities waiting to see what those rules will look like.

The Current contacted each local municipality that has not yet written its own bylaw asked about their plans (or lack thereof) for a single-use plastic ban.

Abbotsford

Abbotsford is taking a wait-and-see approach, with a spokesperson saying it is engaged in “discussions” in the region “around aligning approaches by member municipalities around single-use plastic items.” In an email, the spokesperson noted that provincial and federal rules deal with different types of plastics. “The City of Abbotsford continues to monitor municipal initiatives, and federal and provincial directives,” the statement concluded. In other words, no Abbotsford-specific plastic ban is on the horizon.

Langley Township/City

Staff at each of the the Township of Langley and the City of Langley provided similar responses, saying Metro Vancouver is looking to develop standardized bylaws that will be the same across the region. Township staff said they will be speaking to Metro officials about the plans. (The Township and City of Langley are each members of Metro Vancouver. Communities east of Langley are part of the Fraser Valley Regional District.) There are, already, several Metro Vancouver municipalities with single-use bylaws, including Surrey and Richmond.

Mission/Hope/Agassiz

Mission staff are researching the implications of a ban. A report to council is expected later this year. Kent said it was “waiting for provincial and federal direction on single-use plastics for the purpose of consumer and business consistency and larger environmental impact.” Hope said it had no plans to introduce a bylaw.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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