On Oct. 7, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the next steps in the Government of Canada’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
A key part of the plan includes banning these six harmful single-use items: plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.
“This is a victory for the ongoing history of environmental activism on the West Coast,” said Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury.
“We are a small pond, but we had a big impact on the whole country,” she said. “Leadership from residents, businesses, and our governments proved that this was possible and that we could thrive in the process. We chose to stand up and work to address challenges, risks, and uncertainties. This is a moment for us to be incredibly proud as this is full evidence that one small local victory can go on to create a major wave of transformation.”
The West Coast is ahead of the country when it comes to nixing single-use plastics: On Sept.12 2020, the Province approved Tofino and Ucluelet’s bylaws to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam take-out containers.
NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni Gord Johns said the national plastics advancement is another example of how grassroots campaigns can make change at the federal level.
“[The Oct.7] announcement of a ban on a limited number of single-plastics products by the end of next year caused us to remember all those community activists and local groups and organizations who mobilized to support our parliamentary motion M-151 almost two years ago,” said MP Johns. On Dec. 5, 2018, Canada’s house of commons voted unanimously in favour of M-151: a national strategy to combat marine plastic pollution.
“We can celebrate this initial step by the government with the knowledge that we have a long way to go to realize the achievement of our strategy’s essential goals. The Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards Association, Surfrider Pacific Rim, Wild Pacific Trail Society; Emerald Sea Protection Society, Coastal Restoration Society, Communities to Protect Our Coast, West Coast Environmental Law, Ucluelet Aquarium; the UVic Environmental Law, T. Buck Suzuki, Ocean Legacy, Living Oceans Society, the Districts of Tofino and Ucluelet, were at the heart and ground zero of this grassroots campaign,” he said.
“We are so proud of the progress we’ve made over the past four years,” she said, adding that she wants to see Canadians move towards a circular economy. She went on to encourage visitors to the West Coast to ‘live like a local’.
“Bring your own container, your own bag, your own mug and live like a local. We don’t want to rely on these single-use plastics anymore,” said Woodbury.
Diane Rudge is the co-owner of Ucluelet’s The Den, a refillery and quality goods shop. She said the announcement on plastics is inspiring, albeit long overdue. As an ocean-friendly small business founder, Rudge notes the importance of looking at the life cycle of products as well as the carbon footprint.
“We try to look at the company’s core values. Is everything continuing to be re-used? For the refillery section of the Den, we partner with brands that are biodegradable and natural,” said Rudge.
Since opening The Den about a year ago, Rudge said the community support has been amazing.
“People have adapted really well. They are curious and wanting to learn more,” she said.