Explainer: Surrey’s new tree protection bylaw and plastic items ban

Rule breakers are looking at fines from $500 to $20,000

Surrey will be enforcing new bylaws that protect trees in the city. (File photo)

The City of Surrey recently passed a plastic bags and single-use items bylaw, as well as a tree protection bylaw.

The new tree protection bylaw increased the fine an individual must pay for cutting down a “specimen quality tree” from $2,000 to $5,000. The fine increase for “protected trees” is from $1,000 to $3,000.

The highest fine included in the city’s news release is $20,000 for an “offence related to a significant tree.” This fine was increased from $10,000.

The types of actions that warrant penalties are described as cutting, damaging, or removing a tree.

The tree protection bylaw states that any residents who own significant trees must obtain a tree cutting permit in order to prune their tree. This rule does not apply to a protected tree.

In 2006 the city approved the tree protection bylaw. However, the bylaw has been updated to “help to simplify the administration of the bylaw and provide clarity on the collection and release of securities.”

The city is also working to ban single-use items and plastic bags.

The plastic bags and single-use items bylaw will prohibit plastic bags at the checkout area, as well as a prohibition on foam cups and foam take-out containers, according to the report.

The ban on checkout plastic bags also applies to the “compostable” and “biodegradable” bags. However, single-use plastic bags for bulk, frozen, meat, produce, and “small hardware items” are exempted from the ban.

To deter businesses from using paper bags as a replacement option, the city has proposed a fee of 25 cents. There is also a minimum fee of $2.00 for reusable bags.

Paper bags are not intended to be the solution to the single-use bag problem, and the report states that the bags must be “at least 40% recycled content.”

Businesses will also be required to disclose the amount of bags they give out annually.

A report from a council meeting showed that 25.6 million plastic bags were disposed annually in 2019, along with 12.4 million plastic take-out containers.

The data also showed that the amount of plastic bags and single-use items used in the Metro Vancouver region amounted to 1.1 billion. Of that amount, 76 million were sent to the landfill from Surrey.

The B.C. provincial government has also announced their approval for banning plastic bags and are in the process of allowing bans on certain types of plastic products. Sandwich bags and stir sticks are reportedly going to be recycled with the “industry-funded residential recycling programs.”

Other municipalities in the Metro Vancouver region have already set a date to implement the single-use plastic ban. Vancouver is looking to start on the first of January in 2022, and Richmond is still in discussions to set a date.

Individuals who fail to adhere to these rules will be looking at a fine of $500 to $10,000.

In a news release, Mayor Doug McCallum said the bylaws will work to better Surrey’s environment.

Councillor Allison Patton, chair of the Agriculture, Environment and Investment Committee, also commented in the release saying that the work of the council will continue and Surrey will remain at the “forefront as a thriving, green and inclusive city.”

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