Tofino and Ucluelet’s councils formalized a peninsula-wide single-use plastic ban last week by officially adopting unified bylaws that prohibit businesses in either town from providing plastic bags or straws to customers.
“It was easy,” Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly News. “Everybody knows it’s the right thing and it was an easy one for us to do.”
He added that adopting the ban in unison with Tofino shows a synchronized voice and boosts the West Coast’s potential impact as a role model to other regions.
“We can really show some leadership in this arena,” he said. “It’s hard for them not to buy in and start to jump on the bandwagon because we show them how easy it is.”
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said many West Coast businesses have already eliminated plastic bags and straws thanks to the consistently robust efforts of Surfrider Pacific Rim and suggested the formal ban will bring “the last few holdouts” on board.
“Laws and regulations are most successful when they represent the will of the majority of society and the tide is really turning when it comes to reducing and eliminating unnecessary plastic products,” she said. “In some senses, this bylaw is symbolic, but it is still important because it signals local government support and leadership in reducing the use of single-use plastics and it also validates the very hard work of people committed to making a positive change.”
She echoed Noel’s sentiment around the West Coast having a role to play in encouraging other areas to put similar bans in place.
“This is all about eliminating unnecessary plastics from our daily lives, and helping people become more aware of the insidiousness of single-use plastics. Steps like these, as small as they seem, help inspire larger changes in behaviour as well and, ultimately, I think that is what we hope to accomplish with this small step,” she said. “As well, if tiny towns like Tofino and Ucluelet can do this, in partnership with organizations like Surfrider, other towns can too. We also hope to incentivize other communities to work with community and business organizations to reduce the use of single-use plastics.”
Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury said the ban’s adoption in both towns was met with “a mix of feeling excited and feeling proud of the Mayor and Councils, along with their dedicated staff team, who took the leap to pass the regulation and commit to banning both plastic straws and bags.”
She added that local businesses, residents and youth all played an important role in promoting the ban and that it sends a strong message to other municipal leaders across the province.
“Tofino and Ucluelet are the first municipalities to ban plastic straws in B.C., and we can be certain that this is opening up a pathway for other B.C. communities to follow suit,” she said.
She added the ban has the potential to spread awareness worldwide as it will spark conversations amongst the town’s visitors.
“It’s going to create incredible awareness around the pollution that single-use plastics cause, from summer employees to the massive influx of tourists who will visit businesses and learn about the bans,” she said.
“As we know, the issues extend far beyond bags and straws, but this crucial step will bring awareness to the consumption and management of all other single-use plastics and plastic products more generally.”
She said Surfrider plans to continue working with West Coast leaders to eliminate other commonplace single-use plastics, like coffee cups, water bottles, cutlery, and styrofoam cups.
Noel said supporting active organizations like Surfrider is paramount.
“I think it’s our job, as the elected, to ensure we support these groups and their initiatives and not pop their balloon and say that they’re crazy,” he said.
“We need to support any kind of group that’s passionate about something in our community. We need to support them and let them run with it.”