Oak Bay council is hoping a recent resolution leads to a drop in the number of plastics reaching the ocean.
The resolution, which passed unanimously on June 24, called for the district to support an Ocean Legacy Foundation request to the B.C. government, regarding bottle deposits. The request asks the province to increase the deposit rate, add containers such as milk cartons to the refund system, require producers to collect and report on the recycling of bottle caps, raise the targets for the number of bottles collected, and enforce those targets through efforts such as requiring producers to pay for the cleanup of ocean plastics.
“This is something that’s kind of weighed heavy on my mind for a number of years now,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite, who proposed the resolution.
Braithwaite is an avid hiker. She’s walked coastlines across the world, in addition to her frequent hikes along the Vancouver Island shoreline. “Everywhere you go there’s so much plastic waste. You can’t walk a kilometre along a beach without finding a plastic bottle.”
She was inspired to put forward the resolution after representatives from the Ocean Legacy Foundation spoke to council at a previous meeting.
The foundation analyzed data from the Brewers Recycled Container Collection Council and Encorp Pacific, the corporation in charge of container management.
According to the group, more than 387 million beverage containers went “missing” — or were not returned to B.C.’s deposited refund system — in 2017.
Braithwaite said the aim with increasing the deposit rate would be to provide more incentive for people to bring in bottles.
Reducing the number of plastics in the ocean should be a universal concern, she added.
“I think most people should care because they have to look at what we’re leaving for our children and our children’s children,” she said. “Not only is it all of that plastic coming up on our shores, but it’s what that plastic does when it breaks down in the ocean and how that affects ocean life.”
B.C. has a 5-cent minimum deposit return rate.
The provincial Environment Ministry told The Canadian Press in April it is reviewing the Ocean Legacy report, adding that the recommendations are generally in keeping with the province’s goal of reducing the use of plastics and other single-use items.
More than one billion containers are recycled under the Encorp program alone each year, according to the ministry.
Oak Bay Council’s resolution will head to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities executive. If approved, it will be put forward at the union’s annual meeting.
Braithwaite said she hopes all municipalities can support the resolution.
—- with files from The Canadian Press