Explainer: B.C. expands its recycling program

The program accepts more single-use plastic items for recycling

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

People in British Columbia can now recycle single-use plastic items and products with the recently expanded recycling program. Accepted items now include plastic sandwich bags, throw-away party cups, plates and bowls, plastic straws, and more. 

These regulations are not part of the federal government’s single-use plastic ban, which went into effect on Dec. 20. The federal ban prohibits the manufacturing and importing of harmful single-use plastics such as checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, and straws. 

New items that can be added to residential blue boxes in B.C. include plastic plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, straws, food storage containers, clothing hangers, paper plates, bowls and cups with plastic lining, aluminum foil, foil baking dishes, pie plates, and metal storage tins. Depots can now accept foam bowls and cups, plastic carry-out, freezer bags, shrink and bubble wrap, reusable carry out shopping bags, and drop sheets. 

Some depots in Surrey that take these items include London Drugs on 10348 King George Blvd and the location on 152 St., Jenill Recycling on 13140 88 Ave, and the Newton, Guildford, and Scott Road bottle depots. 

These changes are part of the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan, which aims to change the use and design of plastic by making them durable and reusable. The plan aims to reduce new plastic by replacing it with reusable solutions, promote the manufacture of post-consumer plastics, and control problem plastics through regulation. 

Due to the extended producer responsibility programs, companies and producers in B.C. are responsible for collecting and recycling the products they create. This makes B.C. the largest regulator of residential packaging and products in Canada. 

According to the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, fossil fuels need to be replaced with clean energy in transport, industry, and building sectors in order to decarbonize the economy. Only 19 per cent of the total electricity we use is clean. About 69 per cent of B.C.’s energy needs are met with fossil fuels in the form of refined petroleum and natural gas. Approximately 80 per cent of the emissions in B.C. are due to fossil fuel production and consumption. In 2020, the total diesel emissions accounted for about 36 per cent, with gasoline at 26 per cent and natural gas at 34 per cent. 

The plan aims to increase the percentage of clean electricity to support the sustainability goals of new businesses, create opportunities in bioeconomy, and implement the B.C. Hydrogen Strategy, which aims to create economic opportunities, reduce emissions, and help in reaching the climate targets. 

The province also aims to work with First Nations by launching the Indigenous Clean Energy Opportunities Engagement (ICEO) to support clean energy opportunities.

The Extended Producer Responsibility Five-Year Action Plan outlines immediate actions to control waste in B.C. The expanded categories of products in the plan include hybrid and electric vehicle batteries as well as other battery types, mattresses and foundations, compressed canisters, medical sharps used at home, and electronics. 

Those interested in dropping off their items at a depot can find the closest one near them on Recycle BC’s website