Burnaby should 'push ahead' with plastics ban despite court ruling: councillor

Coun. Joe Keithley says everyone has part to play in keeping plastics out of the ocean

A Burnaby councillor wants his city to “push ahead” with a potential ban on single-use plastics despite a recent court ruling striking down a similar policy in Victoria. 

Coun. Joe Keithley, the only Green Party member on council, brought a motion to the environment and social planning committee in April asking staff to study how the city could ban single-use plastics in municipal facilities and local businesses. 

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A potential ban could restrict the distribution of plastic bags, take-out containers, utensils, bottles and more, Keithley said.

“We could get this done to make a contribution to not putting so much plastic into the environment – into the ocean, on the side of the road, into nature,” he said. 

But the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down a City of Victoria ban on single-use plastic bags last week, ruling the bylaw fell under provincial, not municipal, jurisdiction. Victoria’s ban could be upheld if Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman signs off on it. 

A spokesperson from Heyman’s office said the ministry could consider approving Victoria’s bylaw but has yet to receive a request. Meanwhile, it is studying “all aspects” of the decision, the spokesperson said. 

“British Columbians are concerned about plastic waste in our environment and want action. To that end, the province is currently looking at ways to prevent plastic waste in our environment at a provincewide level,” the ministry spokesperson wrote in an email. 

Keithley said he hadn’t read the ruling but felt confident the environment minister would give the appropriate approval when the time came. 

Other B.C. cities – including Richmond, Rossland and Vancouver – have passed or studied similar single-use plastic bans. And the federal government has announced plans to ban certain plastic items nationwide by 2021. 

Despite the potential federal policy, Keithley said Burnaby needs to do its part in the larger fight against plastics.

“I think it’s a momentum thing, that you get enough people on board that we’ll find ways to get it done,” he said. 

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