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Vancouver approves single-use bans


VANCOUVER – Vancouver city council has approved new by-laws targeting waste and litter from single-use items such as plastic shopping bags, disposable cups, utensils and plastic straws. 

“We have heard loud and clear that reducing waste from single-use items is important to residents and that bold action is needed,” said mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“The by-laws balance public demand for action and the central needs of our disability and business communities – access and time to adjust. As we take strides towards our zero waste 2040 goal, we’re hopeful to see harmonized leadership from the Province that will further protect our shorelines and parks and encourage lasting behaviour change.”

The new by-laws are designed to reduce single-use items made from all types of materials, not just plastic.

  • Foam cups and foam take-out containers will be banned as of January 1, 2020.
  • Plastic and compostable plastic straws are banned as of April 22, 2020. Food vendors must provide accessible straws (bendable plastic straws wrapped in paper) and provide them to customers, without question, upon request. A one-year exemption is provided for plastic straws served with bubble tea to allow time for the market to provide alternatives.

  • By-request requirement for single-use utensils also begins April 22, 2020. All single-use utensils can only be given out by request.

  • Plastic and compostable plastic shopping bags will be eliminated January 1, 2021. Paper bags must contain at least 40 percent recycled content. Minimum fees of $0.15 per paper bag, $1.00 per reusable bag. Minimum fees increase Jan. 1, 2022 to $0.25 per paper bag, $2.00 per reusable bag.

  • On January 1, 2021, a $0.25 minimum fee on all disposable cups will be introduced.

“In the coming months, as businesses take action to reduce waste and comply with the by-laws, translated toolkits will be available online and print copies by-request to help businesses find affordable, accessible, and reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives,” said Cheryl Nelms, acting general manager of engineering services.

“A public awareness campaign will launch in advance of the by-laws to encourage behaviour change in residents, tourists, businesses and their staff.”

The plastic straw by-law includes an accessibility requirement that supports the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities to access bendable plastic straws, wrapped in paper, when needed for accessibility. Food vendors will be required to stock accessible straws (bendable plastic straws individually wrapped in paper) and provide them to customers, without question, upon request. This requirement was supported by a formal resolution from the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and Senior’s Advisory Committee to the City of Vancouver.

Council also approved writing to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to request that the Province:

  • Develop standards for the use of compostable, biodegradable, oxodegradable and photodegradable plastics,
  • Align standards for certified compostable plastics and compost facilities in British Columbia; and
  • Require Extended Producer Responsibility for all compostable packaging wastes generated by residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, as well as the public realm.

Over 15,500 residents, businesses and community groups contributed to the development of the strategy and the supporting by-laws through workshops, roundtable discussions, online surveys, in-person interviews, webinars and more.

Vancouver’s Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy includes the widest range of municipal actions to reduce single-use items like shopping bags, disposable cups, foam take-out containers, plastic straws and single-use utensils in Canada.

Staff will report back on a policy to eliminate single-use items in civic facilities and events.