Tofino cutting out plastic utensils in growing pollution prevention efforts

A coastal B.C. community known for seemingly endless beaches and rolling waves that call out to surfers has banned single-use plastic cutlery in a move to keep its ocean playground pollution-free, says Tofino Mayor Dan Law.

The ban on plastic knives and forks at take-out establishments is Tofino’s latest stab at reducing waste after the district council passed a bylaw in 2020 banning single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene foam containers.

Tofino council amended its bylaw last month to include a ban on single-use plastic cutlery and local businesses have until August to comply, Law said in an interview.

Discarded plastic forks and knives are some of the most common items found during cleanups at local beaches and parks and banning their use will help the environment, he said.

“Around here everything just ends up in the ocean,” he said. “That’s not where we want plastic garbage. This is just one way of cracking down on plastic pollution.”

He said businesses in Tofino are already complying with the single-use plastic bylaw, with many switching to wood or paper-type utensils and it also appears consumers are bringing their own knives and forks.

“We want it to stick,” Law said. “We want all the businesses to know we’re serious about this. We were serious about plastic bags, serious about plastic straws. Those things get in the ocean all the time and I think bylaws really cement that and make sure everybody’s on board.”

Bylaw offenders are subject to a fine, but the amount is under review, said the mayor.

“The intent of this bylaw is to set standards of general public interest, and not to impose a duty on the District of Tofino or its employees to enforce its provisions,” says the bylaw.

The single-use plastic utensils ban and previous other plastics initiatives were the result of local awareness campaigns by residents, businesses and groups committed to reducing pollution in the Tofino area, said Laurie Hannah, Pacific Rim Surfrider Foundation coordinator.

“For us, we’re trying to make zero waste the cool and trendy thing,” she said.

Hannah said Environment and Climate Change Canada reports the country’s plastic recycling rate is nine per cent.

The federal government announced last December that draft regulations prohibiting certain single-use plastics have been published for public comment.

Laval, Que., banned single-use plastic utensils as part of its November 2021 bylaw banning single-use plastic bags.

The B.C. government said last year more than 20 communities are developing bylaws banning single-use plastics.

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