Single-Use Plastic Ban
Richmond’s Single-Use Plastic and Other Items Bylaw No. 10000 is effective March 27, 2022 and bans:
- Plastic checkout bags (including biodegradable and compostable plastics)
- Plastic straws (including biodegradable and compostable plastics)
- Foam food service ware for prepared food (such as foam plates, clamshell containers, bowls and cups)
Bylaw 10000 was adopted to help reduce unnecessary waste and plastic pollution, and the new ban affects all businesses operating in Richmond. This bylaw is also consistent with other bans in other communities, as well as regulations being developed by federal and provincial governments.
The federal government has enacted Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations which will prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of six categories of single-use plastics: checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics, straws, ring carriers, and stir sticks. The regulations prohibiting manufacture and import will begin December 20, 2022 and those prohibiting sales will begin December 20, 2023. To learn more about the Regulations coming into force and the timelines, see the federal overview webpage.
Trash-Skimmer Pilot Program
In May of 2023 the City of Richmond launched the Trash-Skimmer pilot program in association with Swim Drink Fish and the Steveston Harbour Authority. The water based trash-skimmer is the first device of its kind to be installed on the West Coast of North America.
From it’s location on the dock at Fisherman’s Wharf in Steveston Village, the trash-skimmer will collect both solid and liquid waste that floats on the water’s surface. Examples of some of the debris that may be collected are plastic bottles, packaging, microplastics and hydrocarbons.
Regular audits will be conducted to gain a better understanding of the waste found in the water. Please check back for additional information on the debris collected.Did you know?
- 80% of all marine pollution is plastic waste 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year
- Currently, there are about 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean
- Plastic has been found in the deepest point on the planet – 11,000 m below sea level
- The great pacific garbage patch expands over 6,092 km2 area, equivilant to 1,050,284 Football fields.
Let’s Choose to Reuse
As businesses switch to recyclable, compostable and reusable alternatives to banned items, residents can do their part to reduce plastic waste and pollution:
- Bring a bag: bring reusable checkout bags when you shop
- Carry a cup: bring your own cup when you’re out for coffee, tea, bubble tea or other beverages
- Skip the straw: don’t use a straw when you’re out at restaurants, or bring your own reusable straw if needed
Why Ban Single-Use Items?
Single-use items result in huge amounts of unnecessary waste, creating negative environmental and economic impacts. The vast majority of these materials are never recycled and either end up in landfills or get dumped into the natural environment, including oceans and other waterways. These materials can take centuries to decompose and, in the meantime, cause significant damage to the ecology, pose a significant threat to wildlife and potentially contaminate the food chain. While some of these items may be labelled as reusable or recyclable, they are generally made from low quality materials, which can only be used a few times and have limited recyclable value.
A few facts:
- About 35 million foam food service containers, plastic straws and plastic checkout bags are collected from garbage in Richmond every year – that’s almost 660 tonnes that the City aims to remove from landfills.
- It is estimated that 29,000 tonnes of plastic pollution enters the environment across Canada each year.
- On a global scale, at least eight million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year – equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.
- Plastic degrades slowly and is persistent in the environment. This means the amount of plastic pollution is anticipated to continue to increase over time, which makes the issue a local, national, and global problem that needs a unified plan to combat.
Single-Use Items and Other Items Bylaw Details
Single-Use Plastic and Other Items Bylaw No. 10000 outlines the specific items that are banned, exemptions for each category and City enforcement.
Part 1: Foam food service ware
Businesses in Richmond must not sell or provide prepared food in any foam food service ware, which includes but is not limited to plates, cups, bowls, trays, cartons, and hinged or lidded containers. Prepared food includes any food or beverage prepared for consumption by a customer. It does not include any raw, uncooked food, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs or vegetables unless provided for consumption without further food preparation. For example: using a foam tray for cut raw vegetables that are intended for a stir fry, or vegetables like spiralized zucchini or corn on the cob that still need to be cooked would be exempt. Using a foam tray for an orange that is peeled and sliced to be ready-to-eat, is not permitted as it is considered prepared food and banned under Bylaw 10000.
- This ban does not apply to hospitals or any facility licensed as a community care facility under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act as these facilities have special health safety requirements.
- Organizations incorporated and in good standing under the Society Act or registered as a charitable society or organization under the federal Income Tax Act have 18 months to comply with Bylaw 10000 (compared to 12 months for businesses).
- Prepared food containers that have been filled and sealed outside of the City of Richmond prior to arrival at the business location are permitted under Bylaw 10000.
Part 2: Plastic straws
“No business shall sell or otherwise provide any Plastic Straws.” - Bylaw 10000Plastic straws are banned with some exemptions as noted below. This means businesses must not sell or provide any drinking straw made with plastic, including biodegradable plastic or compostable plastic.
- Businesses can provide plastic straws to people with accessibility needs when requested.
- The sale of plastic straws intended for use at a customer’s home or business is permitted under Bylaw 10000 provided that they are sold in packages of multiple straws.
Part 3: Plastic checkout bags
Plastic checkout bags are banned with some exemptions as noted below. This includes any bag made of plastic, including biodegradable or compostable plastic, that is intended to be used by the customer for the purpose of transporting items purchased or received from the business, or intended to be used to package take-out or delivery food.
It’s important to note that there are a number of accepted uses for plastic bags that are permitted under Bylaw 10000 as listed in the exemptions. As well, this bylaw relates to plastic checkout bags – not all types of plastic. For example, plastic shrink wrap is not part of this bylaw.Exemptions:
- Businesses can provide a plastic checkout bag to a customer if the bag has been returned to the business for the purpose of being reused by other customers. This is intended to support charitable organizations and thrift stores who commonly use this practice to cut costs for their customers and reuse materials already in circulation.
- Plastic bags may be used as packaging for:
- loose bulk food items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains or candy;
- loose small hardware items such as nails or bolts;
- frozen food, meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not;
- flowers or potted plants;
- prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre-packaged; and
- prescription drugs received from a pharmacy.
- Plastic checkout bags may also be used for
- transporting live fish;
- protecting linens, bedding or other similar large items;
- protecting newspapers or other printed material intended to be left at the customer’s residence or place of business; or
- protecting clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning.
- The sale of plastic bags intended for use at a customer’s home or business is permitted under Bylaw 10000 provided that they are sold in packages of multiple bags.
Compostable/Biodegradable Plastic: why it's banned
Ironically, these products can only go in the garbage. This is because compostable/biodegradable plastics are not guaranteed to breakdown in industrial compost facilities. Also, these materials may further contribute to the issue of plastic pollution, as they are not designed to biodegrade if littered in the natural environment.
Required standards and certifications are needed to ensure plastic products labelled compostable/biodegradable meet the requirements needed to compost effectively at existing processing facilities, which are designed to compost food scraps and yard waste in the region.
Currently, because the products do not align with these standards, they don’t break down completely, resulting in problems such as small flecks of plastic remaining in the end compost product, rendering the product contaminated.
Local governments like the City of Richmond do not have the authority to control compostable packaging design and certification requirements; however, the City is reaching out to senior levels of government to advocate for broader measures that will result in consistent standards and policies for compostable/biodegradable plastics.
Implementation TimelineThis implementation schedule is designed to provide time for businesses to use up existing stock, work with vendors to identify accepted alternatives and transition to meet bylaw requirements.
- Bylaw Adoption: September 27, 2021
- Implemented and Effective: March 27, 2022
- Enforcement: September 27, 2022
Who is Affected?Bylaw 10000 applies to all business license holders in the community – specifically any person, organization, or group engaged in a trade, business, profession, occupation, calling, employment or purpose that is regulated under the City's Business Licence Bylaw No. 7360 and includes a person employed by, or operating on behalf of, a business.
Bylaw EnforcementThe City will begin the enforcement phase in September 2022 by continuing education and working with businesses to support their compliance efforts. This will be a staged approach to ensure that businesses have all the information and resources necessary to successfully comply. After an initial grace period to focus on education, the City will be strictly enforcing Bylaw 10000. Penalties for non-compliance may include ticketing, starting at $250 and increasing to $1,000. In addition, non-compliance with the Bylaw can be prosecuted in Provincial Court with fines of up to $10,000 per occurrence. Examples of non-compliance include:
- packing groceries in a plastic checkout bag
- serving bubble tea with a plastic straw
- packing ready-to-eat food in foam take-out containers
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is being banned?
- Plastic checkout bags
- Plastic straws; and
- Foam (polystyrene) food service ware for prepared food (such as foam plates, clamshell containers, bowls and cups)
- Compostable plastics
- Biodegradable plastics
2. Who does Bylaw 10000 apply to?
3. What is the timeline for Bylaw 10000's implementation?
- Bylaw 10000 adopted by Council: September 27, 2021
- Bylaw 10000 is effective: March 27, 2022
- Bylaw 10000 is enforced: September 27, 2022
- Charitable Organizations exemption expires: March 27, 2023
4. Is it really necessary to implement Bylaw 10000? Even if the containers are recyclable, customers may end up throwing them into the garbage
5. How will Bylaw 10000 by enforced?
6. Will biodegradable plastic or compostable plastic alternatives be permitted under Bylaw 10000?
7. Is a bag fee required, and does the business get to keep the revenue from bag fees?
8. If customers request plastic straws, can we provide them?
9. Are reusable grocery bags, containers and cups safe to use during COVID-19?
10. What should I use to pick up after my pet now?
11. What should I use as a trash bin liner now?
12. Can I reuse old single-use plastic bags that I have at home?
13. What are single-use plastic and other items?
14. What is the circular economy?
Related Links and Resources
- Tips to Rethink Waste
- Federal government single-use information
- Provincial government single-use information
- Metro Vancouver single-use information
- 2019 Community Engagement Summary Report
- Business workshops and a Discussion Guide (2019)
- BC CDC for Food Business
- News Release Sept 28, 2021: Richmond adopts Bylaw 10000 to ban single-use plastic
- News Release Sep 12, 2020: Richmond to determine timing of Single-Use Plastic and Other Items Bylaw following Provincial approval
- News Release Jul 24, 2019: Richmond takes lead to ban single-use plastics
- News Release Oct 16, 2019: Richmond seeks business and public feedback on the ban of single-use plastic and other items