The Vancouver Island communities of Tofino and Ucluelet marked World Oceans Day by saying goodbye to single-use plastic.
Saturday saw the two districts’ combined ban on plastic bags and straws take effect, making them the first B.C. municipalities to get rid of plastic straws and the latest to outlaw single-use bags.
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said having the ban take effect on a day meant to celebrate the conservation of the world’s oceans simply makes sense.
WATCH: (Aired June 5) Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags
“One of the biggest reasons why we took this action was because of the effect of single-use plastics on the oceans and marine environments,” she said.
“This is just the first step in a larger program that will slowly add other items, but these are the items people called on us to make the ban for.”
Osborne said most businesses and consumers were opting to eliminate plastic bags and straws on their own, with the bylaw simply ensuring all retailers and establishments follow suit.
The bylaws, which passed in May, are identical in their language and provide exemptions for plastic bags that package loose bulk items like fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Checkout bags of other materials, including paper, can only be provided if a customer is asked if they need one first.
WATCH: (Aired May 23) Horseshoe Bay businesses move to ban plastic bags
A 25-cent fee must be applied to paper bags, while a $2 fee is required for reusable bags.
Small paper bags are allowed free of charge for bulk items, proteins, bakery goods and prescription drugs.
Enforcement of the bylaw won’t take effect until January 2020. Penalties for breaking the ban have not yet been set.
Bans on plastic bags, straws and other single-use items have begun to rapidly spread across the province, as municipalities face pressure from consumers and businesses.
Vancouver voted to ban plastic straws in April, but the order won’t take effect until at least April 2020 in order to give businesses time to adapt.
A plastic bag reduction strategy is in place, but the city says a full ban will be implemented if reduction targets aren’t met by 2021.
WATCH: (Aired June 29, 2018) B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags
Surrey city council voted in April to explore a ban of single-use items, including plastic bags, straws and disposable cups and containers. New Westminster city staff is considering a similar policy.
Osborne said Tofino and Ucluelet’s bylaws were modeled after Victoria’s, adding it’s proof the idea has become important for B.C. residents.
“I really hope senior levels of government are going to listen to this,” the mayor said.
“More and more municipalities are taking this step, and I think it’s time for the province and the feds to step us as well and consider this kind of ban across the province or across Canada.”