British Columbia takes action on plastic waste

4 minute read
19 July 2023

On July 14, 2023, the Province of British Columbia published the Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation,[1] which will come into effect on December 20, 2023. This regulation will lead to the phasing-out of oxo-degradable plastic packaging and products,[2] shopping bags,[3] and food service ware and accessories in British Columbia.[4]

The publication of this regulation ends a multi-year consultation process pursuant to the CleanBC Action Plan, which launched in 2019.[5]

Business operators[6] and food service providers[7] can expect significant changes when this regulation comes into effect in December, including:

  • A prohibition on the sale or distribution of packaging or single-use products that are composed of oxo-degradable plastics.[8]
  • A prohibition on the sale or distribution of plastic shopping bags, unless the business owner charges a fee and the bags are made of recycled paper or are reusable.[9]
  • A prohibition on single-use plastic utensils.[10]
  • A restriction on the sale or distribution of food or beverages in food service ware composed of certain prohibited plastics, including biodegradable and compostable plastics.[11]
  • A restriction on the sale or distribution of single-use food service accessories by food service providers.[12]
  • Recordkeeping requirements regarding:
    • The sale of recycled paper and reusable bags by large business operators.[13]
    • The provision of food service accessories by food delivery platform operators.[14]

These measures are subject to very limited exemptions. They follow many recent BC municipal bylaws targeting single use plastics and are intended to complement recent federal measures on single-use items, to promote reusable alternatives, and to eliminate the use of some items.

The environmental law team at Gowling WLG has assisted many companies in meeting their recycling obligations across Canada. If you have questions about your company's obligations regarding the upcoming changes to single-use plastic laws in the Province of British Columbia, or other questions about your recycling obligations, we encourage you to contact any member of our team.


[1] Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation, Order in Council No. 461, July 14, 2023.

[2] "Oxo-degradable plastic" is defined in s. 2 as "a plastic that contains an additive that, through oxidation, leads to chemical decomposition or to the fragmentation of the plastic material into microfragments."

[3] "Shopping bag" is defined in ss. 4 and 5 as a bag distributed or sold for the purpose of "facilitating the transport of a commodity or product, that is distributed or sold by the business operator, from the business operator's place of business."

[4] s. 9: "Food service accessory" includes a beverage cup lid and sleeve, condiment, drinking straw, garnish, napkin, utensil, and wet wipe; "Food service ware" includes a bowl, box or carton, cup, hinged or lidded container, plate, platter, tray, and film wrap.

[5] British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, "CleanBC Plastics Action Plan".

[6] "Business operators" are defined in s. 1 as "a person who, in the ordinary course of business, sells a commodity or product, whether by wholesale or retail."

[7] "Food service provider" is defined in s. 9 as a person who either "in the ordinary course of business, prepares and serves food or beverages to individuals," or is not a business operator, but "whose activities ordinarily include preparing and serving food or beverages to individuals outside their household."

[8] s. 3.

[9] s. 6. Shopping bags may be distributed free of charge if they meet the requirements in s. 7.

[10] s. 13.

[11] s. 11.

[12] s. 12.

[13] "Large business operator" is defined in s. 8 as "a business operator that employs 500 or more employees in British Columbia."

[14] "Food delivery platform operator" is defined in s. 15 as "a person who provides ordering services to more than one food service provider through an online platform."

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