The Village of Cumberland had only just brought in its single-use plastic ban this summer when the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down an attempt by the City of Victoria’s similar ban.
In response to the resulting uncertainty for local governments around the status of single-use plastic bans, Cumberland is collaborating with Tofino and other communities to make a response to the provincial government about proposed amendments to the recycling regulations.
Kaelin Chambers, the economic development officer for Cumberland, provided a report to council at the Sept. 9 meeting in order for the community to figure out its next steps in light of the court decision.
On July 1, the Village adopted the single-use ban on July 1 in order to reduce plastic waste, such as bags and straws, in the community. On July 11 though, the Court of Appeal struck down the Victoria bylaw because, as the bylaw’s intent was environmental rather than business or commercial, the city had overstepped its bounds and should have sought approval from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, as it has jurisdiction over the environment.
“We should’ve sought provincial support in implementing the bylaw,” Chambers told council. “Essentially, we’re not regulating business use, we’re regulating environmental interests, so it didn’t actually test the fitness of the bylaw. It was more about the adoption process.”
After the court decision, the Province said it would review its recycling regulations. Council was asked to consider a motion for the Village to take part in a joint submission with other communities, spearheaded by Squamish and Tofino, to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The Village received a letter from Mayor Josie Osborne of Tofino and Mayor Karen Elliott of Squamish.
“It is our hope that the voices of local governments will be stronger together,” Osborne and Elliott state in their letter.
The plan now is for these communities to share their experiences over the bylaw and avoid a situation where all of them have to spend money on any court costs that result because of the issue.
“There’s got to be a solution for one community the same as it is for, I think, fifteen of us right now,” added.
Chambers highlighted some other issues the process can clarify, beyond the bylaw and the need for consultation, such as prioritizing reduction and reuse over recycling or disposing items, local authority limits, stepped or phased regulation, acknowledging each community may tackle the issue differently and extended producer responsibility for waste.
“I figure if we don’t recycle it in the Valley, people shouldn’t be allowed to sell it or provide it as packaging to their products,” he said.
Coun. Sean Sullivan made the motion for the Village to join the collective submission to the Province over its review of recycling regulations. Council approved it unanimously. Local governments have until Sept. 30 to respond.