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Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury touted the new ban as “definitely terrific news”
Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)

Styrofoam has been banished from Tofino and Ucluelet restaurants.

The district offices in both towns announced a ban on polystyrene containers being used as vessels for take-out food on April 14.

Polystyrene foam takeaway containers are now BANNED!Today, April 14th, businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet can no longer...

Posted by District of Tofino on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury touted the new ban as “definitely terrific news” and applauded both towns’ councils and staff for seeing it through.

“The ban on polystyrene containers is another coastal victory on the way towards eliminating all single-use plastic takeaway packaging on the West Coast,” Woodbury wrote in an email to the Westerly News. “Polystyrene takeaway containers are now banned alongside plastic and bioplastic straws and bags, which contributes to a reduction in unrecyclable waste going to landfill or finding its way into the marine environment.”

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet add polystyrene to plastic ban

Tofino and Ucluelet banned plastic bags in 2019 and shared the honour of being the first municipalities in B.C. to ban plastic straws that same year.

Tofino mayor Dan Law told the Westerly News that the decision to add Styrofoam to the list of outlawed plastics was an easy one.

“Styrofoam is one of the biggest marine pollutants. It’s just no good. It sticks around forever and it’s next to impossible, I understand to recycle,” he said.

“We’ve got 600,000 or more visitors every year and they get take-out and it just goes into the landfill. So, it’s a great move I think to just get restaurants to use something else.”

He added most of Tofino’s restaurants had already nixed Styrofoam from their toolkits prior to the ban taking effect.

“It really wasn’t a big step. The vast majority of businesses were already 100 per cent on board and had switched. In this case the business community really embraced and actually got ahead of the ban,” he said adding he wasn’t surprised to see restaurant owners taking an environmentally friendly approach to their businesses.

“The business community of Tofino is pretty tight and almost all locals and people are usually living in Tofino because they like Tofino. They love the beaches and the forests and the water, so it’s really just an extension of who the people themselves are and what they care about. Clearly they care about the environment to embrace this.”

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet officially ban plastic bags and straws

Woodbury agreed, but added Surfrider is helping the remaining businesses make the switch.

“A vast majority of businesses have already transitioned off of this form of takeaway packaging, and we’re supporting other businesses who are still using polystyrene takeaway containers in switching to alternatives.”

She added that polystyrene is one of the most common materials discovered and retrieved during shoreline cleanups both locally and province-wide.

“On average, this material makes up half of what all cleanup groups collect, and out of all plastic resin types, polystyrene is the hardest to fully remove from shorelines,” she wrote.

“This is an archaic material to be utilized for food packaging, which is clear looking at the proliferation of bans on this material all over the world, which we’ve now contributed to.”

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said outlawing Styrofoam made sense not just for environmental reasons, but economic ones as well.

“It just seemed like the most logical next step,” he said. “It’s important for a lot of factors. At the end of the day, the municipalities are the ones responsible for disposing and recycling of these products indirectly through the (Alberni Clayoquot Regional District), so we need to start taking steps on products that come to the West Coast. If there is a high cost to recycle or collect or separate, the easier thing is to just not allow them in the area and then the municipality doesn’t have to spend the money through the regional district on having to police it or having to try to recycle it because it’s a banned substance.”

READ MORE: Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

He echoed Law’s comments about the strength and stewardship of the local business community.

“Everybody’s trying to do their best,” he said. “The municipality is just trying to keep in check with the peoples’ wants and needs and obviously it correlates with what the business community is doing already.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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