British Columbia

Tofino and Ucluelet become 1st B.C. municipalities to ban plastic straws, single-use bags

The ban came into effect just two days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a nationwide ban on single-use plastics — which could include bags, straws and cutlery — by 2021 at the earliest.

'We need to start making these initiatives a reality rather than talking about it,' Ucluelet mayor says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on June 11 his government will also ban single-use plastics — which could include bags, straws and cutlery — in Canada in 2021 at the earliest. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

On June 8, Tofino and Ucluelet became the first two municipalities in B.C. to ban both plastic straws and single-use plastic bags. 

The ban came into effect just two days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a nationwide ban on single-use plastics — which could include bags, straws and cutlery — by 2021 at the earliest.

The ban in the Vancouver Island municipalities will be enforced with fines beginning January 2020.

Mayco Noël, mayor of Ucluelet, says communities shouldn't procrastinate when it comes to stopping single-use plastics use. 

"I think we all know that these are the right things we need to start doing ... we need to start making these initiatives a reality rather than talking about it. We're in a smaller community, so it's just easier to move along," said Noël. 

Tofino and Ucluelet collaborated with Surfrider Foundation Canada in setting up the bylaw. Surfrider is an organization that works with environmental experts to find sustainable solutions to help protect Canadian coasts by combating plastic pollution.

Surfrider's Pacific Rim chapter came up with a single-use plastics ban initiative in a bid to help stem the deadly effects plastic pollution has on ocean wildlife. It then sought out business partners in the coastal communities of Tofino and Ucluelet.

"The way we approached [the initiative] was to get businesses to voluntarily come onboard. So we really made it a community-led effort," said chapter manager Lilly Woodbury⁠.

Long Beach, Tofino. Woodbury says that while Tofino and Ucluelet are near ocean shores and therefore easier to get onboard with a plastics ban, all Canadian towns are affected by plastic's impact on bodies of water. (Ethan Sawyer/CBC)

Businesses would switch over from plastic straws or stop using single-use bags, and would post about it on social media, tagging another business and encouraging them to take the no-plastic challenge as well, Woodbury told Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition.

"We were starting to find out what was happening to the oceans at that point ... And it just became this big community celebration," she said.

Woodbury says that while Tofino and Ucluelet are located on the ocean shore and therefore easier to get onboard with a plastics ban, all Canadian communities are affected by plastic's impact on bodies of water.

She says no matter where you live in Canada, your health and vitality depend on oceans⁠ — whether that's due to oxygen, which is created by tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton; the economy, due to industries like fishing and tourism; or food security. 

"If you live next to a river, you live next to a lake or nearby ... you're also going to understand because this issue isn't isolated to marine ecosystems," she said.

"It's an easier sell for coastal towns, but it is an essential sell for all of Canada."

National plastics ban

Woodbury says the Surfrider is thrilled by the federal government's national ban announcement. 

A list of items being considered for the national ban isn't set in stone, but a government source told CBC News that it could include items like cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates and balloon sticks. Fast-food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, which is similar to white Styrofoam, will also be banned, said the source.

Surfrider Pacific Rim collaborated with Gord Johns, the MP for Courtenay-Alberni, to develop motion M-151, a national strategy to combat plastic pollution, with the aim to put pressure on the federal government. 

Noël says that while the federal ban is great news, municipalities still have work to do. 

"As municipal politicians, we just need to stop waiting for the province or the federal government to make the initiatives. We really need to start making local initiatives," he said. 

Listen to the full story here:

The federal government is planning to ban single-use plastics. We hear from the Surfrider Foundation about the impact this national legislation will have. 7:37

With files from The Early Edition

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