The BC Plastic Ban Breakdown (Updated)

A BC plastic ban overview that’s easy to understand.

What is the BC plastic ban?

The British Columbia (BC) plastic ban is a governmental initiative aimed at reducing plastic pollution and encouraging more responsible and sustainable consumption behaviours. It extends the federal ban, with regulations targeting oxo-degradable plastics, food service ware, and shopping bags.

Under these regulations, the distribution and sale of certain single-use plastic will be prohibited, pushing businesses to consider eco-friendly alternatives. Let’s get into our in-depth, easy to follow BC plastic ban summary.

[Last update: December 1st, 2023]

In this article:

"Say No to Plastic" sign, bc plastic ban

UPDATE: December 1st

The BC Government has amended the BC plastic ban in response to concerns and questions from businesses. The amended regulations delay the ban on certain plastic items. Each section of this article has been updated with current information.

An overview of the updates:

  • December 20th, 2023: Restrictions on food service accessories
  • July 15th, 2024: Restrictions on shopping bags, food service ware, and oxo-degradable plastic
  • July 1, 2028: Restrictions on PVC film wrap
  • July 1, 2030: Restrictions on polystyrene foam meat trays

Oxo-Degradable Plastic Packaging & Products

Key Definitions

  • Oxo-degradable Plastic: Plastic containing additives that cause it to break down naturally into small fragments (microplastics).
  • Biodegradable Plastic: Plastic that can break down naturally.
  • Compostable Plastic: Plastic that can break down in compost.
  • Single-Use Plastic: Items typically thrown away after one use, regardless of whether it could be reused or not.

Why Oxo-Degradable Plastics?

Oxo-degradable plastic holds a certain allure — the promise of plastic that magically “disappears” over time, seemingly solving our plastic pollution problem. However, the reality is more complex and detrimental to our environment.

On the surface, oxo-degradable plastic seems to offer an advantage, as it disintegrates rapidly under certain conditions. But, rather than disappearing completely, it fragments into miniscule pieces known as microplastics. These particles are often invisible to the naked eye but are ever present in our environment.

A major concern over microplastics is their persistence. They are not biodegradable and can remain in the environment for hundreds of years. As they travel into our waterways, they end up in our oceans, causing harm to marine life. And on a wider scale, these microplastics can ascend the food chain, making their way onto our plates, with yet unknown effects on human health.

Learn More: Why Bioplastics Won’t Solve Our Plastic Problem

Prohibitions and Exceptions

Prohibitions

The BC plastic ban stipulates that business operators and vendors are barred from distributing, selling, or offering for sale, any packaging or single-use product that is wholly or partly composed of oxo-degradable plastic. 

Exceptions

While the prohibition is broad in its sweep, it does make allowances for certain exceptions. These cater to specific situations where alternative solutions may not exist or may fail to deliver the same levels of safety.

  • Medical devices as defined in the Pharmaceutical Services Act, such as packaging or components for medication or medical equipment, are exempted from this ban.
  • Packaging or a single-use product that is intended for sale or distribution to persons outside of British Columbia also makes the exception list.

In effect: July 15th, 2024

Takeout containers - bc plastic ban

Food Service Ware & Accessories

Key Definitions:

  • Class A Prohibited Materials: Biodegradable plastic, compostable plastic, polystyrene foam*, polyvinyl chloride*, and polyvinylidene chloride.
  • Class B Prohibited Materials: Biodegradable plastic, polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, and polyvinylidene chloride.
  • Food Service Provider: Person who provides food or beverage services.
  • Food Service Accessory: Beverage cup lids, sleeves, condiments, straws, garnishes, napkins, utensils, and wet wipes.

Restrictions on Food Service Ware

The BC plastic ban brings its attention to plastic food service ware, such as takeout containers and cutlery. Too often, these convenient items become a source of considerable waste, ending up in landfills or as litter in the environment.

Class A: Food service providers must not distribute or sell food and beverages in takeout, delivery, or immediate consumption containers that are composed of Class A prohibited materials. This rule applies across all sectors of the food industry.

Class B: Business operators must not distribute or sell food/beverages in containers made from Class B prohibited materials.

Please note that all single-use plastic products labelled or marketed as compostable will fall under the ban.

Exceptions to these restrictions include trays used for raw meat, poultry, and fish. Also permitted is food service ware meant for sale or distribution outside of BC. Some of these exceptions are set to expire on July 1st, 2030.

In effect: July 15th, 2024

*Polystrene foam for raw food: July 1st, 2030 (or July 15th, 2024 for all other foods)

**PVC film wrap: July 1st, 2028

Restrictions on Food Service Accessories

Single-use accessories, such as utensils, straws, drink lids, and condiments, also come under the BC plastic ban in December. The prohibitions are as follows:

  • Food service providers are prohibited from distributing or selling food service ware accessories unless a customer specifically requests them or independently accesses them through a self-serve station.
  • Food service providers must not distribute or sell single-use utensils made wholly or partly from plastic.
  • Food service providers must not distribute or sell single-use food service accessories that are bundled or pre-packaged together.

Record-Keeping for Food Service Accessories

It is important to note that those providing ordering services to multiple food service providers online must keep records of the percentage of delivery orders where food service accessories were requested or accepted. 

These records must encompass the last two full calendar years. As well, officers may inspect these records to ensure adherence to the BC plastic ban.

In effect: December 20th, 2023

plastic ban floating in the ocean

Shopping Bags

Key Definitions

  • Reusable Bag: A bag capable of being used and machine-washed at least 100 times.
  • Shopping Bag: A bag sold or distributed for transporting  products.
  • Used Bag: A previously used bag that is being reused.

General Prohibition on Shopping Bags

The final section of the BC plastic ban is dedicated to tackling plastic pollution due to the distribution of shopping bags. 

Central to the legislation is the prohibition of businesses from distributing or selling bags for transporting products unless authorized by specific regulations.

Businesses may offer reusable bags or recycled paper bags. Reusable bags must be manufactured to be used and washed at least 100 times. Paper bags must contain a minimum of 40% recycled content, and be labelled with the percent of recycled content and the word “recyclable.”

Shopping Bags Sold for a Charge

Businesses may only sell paper bags made from recycled paper or reusable bags. The minimum charge for recycled paper bags is $0.25 and $2.00 for each reusable bag. This section of the BC plastic ban is designed to encourage customers to bring their own bags while shopping.

Also, before finalizing a sale, businesses are required to give customers the option to use their own bags, reducing the need for new ones. In terms of transactional transparency, if the customer requests a bag, the charge for the bag must be clearly itemized on the receipt.

Distribution of Bags for Free

Businesses can distribute shopping bags freely if the bags were previously used or are less than 15cm x 20cm when flat. Regulatory compliance is also given to recycled paper bags utilized for pharmaceutical purposes or food delivery. 

And for charities or societies distributing free or low-cost food, beverages, or personal hygiene products, bags may be given out free of charge.

Requirements to Keep Records

Large business operators (businesses with over 500 employees), are required to maintain records of the average number of recycled paper bags and reusable bags sold per transaction over the past two years. Officers are allowed to examine these records to ensure adherence to the BC plastic ban regulations.

In effect: July 15th, 2024

bagasse container compliant with bc plastic ban

A Sustainable Way Forward: Eco-Friendly Alternatives

For over 30 years, Origin Sustainables has been at the forefront of eco-friendly food service ware, consistently carving out innovative yet practical solutions that marry business needs with environmental consciousness. 

Our deep-seated industry experience and commitment to staying on top of regulatory developments allow us to keep up with these regulations and offer products that comply.

As the ban surrounding single-use plastics intensifies, businesses are looking to transition to more sustainable alternatives. While materials like PET or PP might seem like appealing alternatives, the ambiguity surrounding their definitions within the context of the ban could potentially create future uncertainties and compliance issues.

At Origin Sustainables, we develop products that are distinctly environmentally conscious, innovative, and unequivocally compliant with the Canada and BC plastic ban regulations. We are committed to offering solutions that align seamlessly with business operations and the environment.

With Origin, compliance is merely the starting line. Each product we offer not only fulfills an immediate need but also reflects an investment in a sustainable and eco-conscious business model — a future where business success and environmental responsibility coexist. 

With us, you have the confidence of navigating the eco-regulatory environment with products that are not only ahead of the curve but also make a positive impact on our planet.

Ready to make the switch?

Learn More: 5 Innovative Sustainable Products for Restaurants

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