Surrey's ban on plastic bags and foam takeout containers now in effect

Oct 20 2021, 11:20 pm

Surrey has become the first municipal jurisdiction in Metro Vancouver to ban plastic checkout bags.

The ban on plastic bags and styrofoam food containers within Surrey is now in effect, following Surrey City Council’s decision on Monday that provided final approvals to a new single-use items bylaw.

Businesses can no longer provide plastic shopping bags, and polystyrene foam cups, takeout containers, plates, and bowls. Additionally, there is a new minimum charge of $0.25 per paper checkout bag and $2 per reusable checkout bag.

However, there will not be an enforcement from now through the end of 2021, as the municipal government will focus on education and outreach on the policy changes. Enforcement will begin on January 1, 2022, transitioning from compliance audits to warnings, before fines and penalties are issued.

“The implementation of this new bylaw is an important change for the Surrey business sector and for residents, so city staff have been working diligently to educate and provide support to ensure a smooth transition to more sustainable alternatives,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum in a statement.

However, it appears many businesses were already proactively making changes on their own prior to the policy adoption.

According to the city, 31% of businesses have already transitioned, 41% are in progress with their transition, 20% are in the planning phase, and 8% have not started any planning. City staff have reached out to over 1,300 businesses over a five-month period since May 2021, including grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, delis, coffee shops, concessions, street vendors, and markets.

City surveys suggest 83% of the public support banning plastic bags, while 86% support banning styrofoam takeout containers and cups.

The new policies will help reduce an estimated 76 million single-use items sent to the landfill annually from Surrey — equal to an average of 440 items per person. This includes 26.6 million plastic checkout bags, 12.5 million disposable cups, 12.4 million takeout containers, and 7.3 million foam takeout cups and containers.

A growing number of municipalities in Metro Vancouver have also begun policy changes on single-use items, which also aligns with shifts in provincial and federal policies.

Earlier this month, Richmond City Council passed similar bans and fees on single-use items, coming into effect within its jurisdiction in March 2022.

Vancouver’s policies are also set to expand. On January 1, 2022, there will be a ban on plastic shopping bags, and a new minimum fee of $0.15 for paper shopping bags, with the rate increasing to $0.25 in 2023. Reusable shopping bags will also have a minimum fee of $1 each, growing to $2 in 2023.

Also starting next year is a minimum fee of $0.25 for each single-use beverage cup distributed by businesses in Vancouver.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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