BC recycling to cover more single-use plastic items as federal ban rolls out over coming years

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British Columbia is filling in the timeline gaps under the new federal ban on some single-use plastics by increasing its flexibility to recycle single-use plastics that will eventually be fully and not partially banned.

Retailers will still be able to deplete their stock over the next year before they will be prohibited from selling or dispensing certain single-use plastic items. In the meantime, items such as plastic cutlery, stir sticks, straws, bowls, cups, and paper plates with plastic lining, can now be recycled in the province, announced the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

The expanded recycling list for B.C. also covers some items exempted under the federal ban, such as plastic hangers, gift boxes, and dental floss containers. The province will also now accept aluminum foil, aluminum-foil baking dishes and pie plates; and thin-gauge metal storage tins.

Overall, federal data shows that Canada is able to recycle just 9% of its plastic waste.

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“By expanding our nation-leading recycling system to include more products, we are keeping more plastic out of our waterways and landfills,” said Aman Singh, parliamentary secretary for environment, in a statement. “People across the province can now recycle a wider array of single-use plastics and other materials in their blue bins and at recycling depots. This builds on the significant progress we’ve made through the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan,” added Singh.

The B.C. recycling regulations are separate from the federal ban on the manufacturing and importing of single-use plastics, which came into effect on December 20, 2022. Canada will also ban the export of plastics in the same categories by the end of 2025. The ban on manufacturing is the first phase of many, in an effort by Canada to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.

Ultimately, federal officials estimate that getting rid of some single-use plastics will eliminate 1.3 million tonnes of difficult-to-recycle plastic waste. For instance, in the category of plastic checkout bags alone, Canadians use some 15 billion every year.

Under the phased-in ban, retailers will be permitted to sell beverage containers packaged with flexible straws until June 2024.

B.C. has been a leader in Canada for tackling the single-use plastics problem. It regulates the largest number of residential packaging and products in Canada through its extended producer responsibility programs. Prior to the federal ban, the province enacted a regulation under B.C.’s Community Charter that allowed local governments to create their own single-use plastic bans without provincial approval. Dozens of communities took advantage of the opportunity to outrace action on the federal level.

(Click to enlarge) New recycling materials list. Graphic courtesy of RecycleBC

B.C. is also expanding the list of items that can currently be accepted by participating recycling depots. This includes: plastic sandwich and freezer bags; plastic shrink wrap; flexible plastic drop sheets and coverings; flexible plastic bubble wrap (no bubble wrap-lined paper); flexible plastic recycling bags (blue, clear bags, or yellow or blue bags used for curbside collection); and flexible plastic carry-out reusable shopping bags.

“This expanded materials list will allow more material to be recycled, keep it out of landfills and stop it from littering the environment,” announced Tamara Burns, executive director of Recycle BC, in a statement. “Residents play a key role in recycling this material by enabling it to be collected – by putting it into their bins or taking materials to a depot,” added Burns.

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