Andrea Reimer: Why Vancouver must take action to reduce disposable items in the trash

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      The numbers are staggering: each week in Vancouver, more than 2.6 million paper coffee cups are thrown into the trash, along with about 2 million plastic bags and countless disposable takeout containers, including many made from Styrofoam. 

      These items add up, and as the weather heats up and more people are out on the street, they pile up fast. Coffee cups and containers take up 50 percent of space in trash bins, and collecting disposable items costs Vancouver taxpayers $2.5 million each year—not to mention the impact on our environment. 

      It’s time to take action. This month, your Vision Vancouver-led council directed city staff to begin consulting residents and businesses on how we can reduce the number of disposable single-use items used in Vancouver. We all need to work together to find solutions that will help reduce the amount of trash being produced. 

      Cities around the world—including more than 100 in the United States alone—have already eliminated the use of Styrofoam takeout containers. A flat-out ban may not make sense for every item (plastic bags, for example, are reused in Vancouver about 60 percent of the time, and bans in other cities have led to more plastic waste), but takeout containers and disposable cutlery crafted from more sustainable products like paper and bamboo are already being used by restaurants and cafes across our city. 

      Businesses and residents are showing other innovative leadership on reducing the use of disposables, and that’s the opportunity to create a made-in-Vancouver solution that supports a healthier environment and strong economy. 

      We’re making remarkable progress on our Greenest City goals—including the goal of reducing the amount of solid waste going to the landfill or incinerator: total waste produced in the city has decreased by 29 percent since 2008. Reducing the number of single-use items that end up in our trash cans and landfills is the next step, and it’s a step we can take together. 

      Council has directed city staff to consult with residents and stakeholder groups, and make recommendations on a single-use item reduction strategy by the end of the year. Find out how you can get involved here on the city website

      Andrea Reimer is a Vision Vancouver city councillor, and former executive director of the Wilderness Committee. Follow her on Twitter @AndreaReimer.

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