City of Vancouver developing strategy to reduce use of disposable plastic products, including bags, cups, straws

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      Disposable bags, cups, and food containers may one day become a thing of the past in Vancouver.

      In an effort to reduce waste, especially from plastic-related products, the City of Vancouver may adopt a number of recommendations that will alter shopping and food service practises.

      The city has held consultations with citizens and businesses since 2016 to develop a strategy to reduce single-use items, such as plastic and paper bags, disposable cups, and plastic straws.

      A draft of the strategy became available for review on March 29.

      The strategy includes options for businesses such as either halting the use of disposable cups and shopping bags or no longer providing them for free.

      The strategy also recommends banning polystyrene foam cups and containers and single-use cups and containers or requiring them to be either recyclable or compostable.

      Food vendors may be required to ask if customers would like a straw, rather than automatically issuing one.

      Jenjira Indon/Getty Images

      According to the city, 2.6 million disposable cups and 2 million plastic bags are thrown into the garbage each week in Vancouver. Approximately 50 percent of all items in public waste bins are cups and take-out containers.

      The expense of collecting these items from bins and cleaning them up from streets costs Vancouver taxpayers $2.5 million each year. The strategy also recommends further investigation into recovering the cost for collecting single-use items.

      Other recommendations in the draft strategy are education and outreach initiatives and the standardization of waste-reduction policies.

      Feedback on the strategy draft is being accepted online until April 13.

      An open house will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday (April 10) at 511 West Broadway to address single-use item waste in Vancouver and to collect feedback. A consultation meeting for small-business owners will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 11) at 511 West Broadway. Attendees must register by Monday (April 9) by calling 311 for English or 604-829-9500 for those who require translation.

      The strategy will be presented to city council on May 16.

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      Several B.C. municipalities are considering or moving towards reducing the use of disposable plastic products.

      In January, Victoria passed a bylaw prohibiting stores from using single-use plastic bans. The bylaw is set to become effective on July 1. However, the Canadian Plastic Bag Industry is challenging this ban in B.C. Supreme Court.

      In February, New Westminster councillor Lorrie Williams tabled a motion to ban the use and sale of plastic bags and straws by 2019. However, it was sent to staff to develop a reduction strategy.

      Cities have been increasingly addressing the accumulation of plastic waste due to heightened awareness raised by scientists, organizations, activists, concerned citizens, and more.

      According to recent research, a mass of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is estimated to be composed of approximately 80,000,000 kilograms (80,000 tonnes) of plastic over 1.6 million square kilometres in the North Pacific.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.