The Regional District of North Okanagan will not be moving forward with its proposed ban on plastic checkout bags after finding out it does not have the authority to create a single-use plastics ban.
In July 2019 the RDNO approved a bylaw to place a ban on single-use plastic bags, but sent the matter to the Ministry of Environment for review before moving to adoption.
The results of that legal review are detailed in a Nov. 18 RDNO report, which states that the ministry was unable to approve or reject the bylaw because regional districts do not have “clear authority to regulate single-use plastic checkout bags.”
The news reverses the unanimous vote by elected RDNO officials in favour of the bylaw in July 2019, which came days after the B.C. Court of Appeal kiboshed the City of Victoria’s plastic bags ban after finding it to be an overstep of its jurisdiction.
While regional districts can’t regulate plastic bags, cities have the option to draft their own bylaws with approval from the province.
That approval won’t be necessary for much longer. In September B.C. approved single-use bylaws in Victoria, Richmond, Saanich, Tofino and Ucluelet, while also announcing plans to allow other local governments to create their own policies without the need for provincial approval.
According to the RDNO report, Salmon Arm has its own single-use plastics bylaw at the ready but is holding off for at least six months, when the requirement for provincial approval expected to be tossed.
The federal government has also stepped up its fight against plastic pollution.
Plans were announced in October to ban single-use plastic straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings, carry-out bags and Styrofoam plates and takeout containers in Canada by the end of 2021.
Kevin Jardine, deputy minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, commended the RDNO for taking the lead on the issue of single-use plastics in a letter dated Oct. 1, while passing on the news that regional districts can’t impose single-use plastic bans.