City of Vancouver delays plastic bag ban and disposable cup fee to 2022

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      Because Vancouver businesses have been struggling to adapt to COVID-19 health measures and the economic impact of the pandemic, the city is giving them—as well as consumers—more time to prepare for upcoming changes in an ongoing crackdown on disposable plastic items.

      The City of Vancouver announced on December 10 that city council approved the postponement of the fee for disposable cups and the ban on plastic shopping bags from January 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022.

      In a news release, the city explained that the rescheduling of the start date is due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon businesses that are facing financial challenges and having to follow provincial health orders, and consequently have limited abilities to implement changes for new bylaws. In early 2021, the city will launch a public-awareness campaign, bylaw guide, and business toolkit about the changes.

      This delayed date falls in line with federal changes. 

      In October, the federal government announced that regulations for the ban of several disposable plastic items—including plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and takeout containers—will be finalized at the end of 2021, as part of Canada’s aim to become zero waste by 2030.

      When the City of Vancouver’s change become effective, businesses will be required to charge a minimum fee of 25 cents for each single-use cup. As of 2023, food vendors will also be required to report to the city the number of single-use cups distributed over the past year at their location (businesses participating in a reusable cup-share program are exempt).

      In addition, plastic shopping bags will be banned (including those labeled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from plants or other biological materials) while a minimum fee of 15 cents must be charged for each distributed paper shopping bag (which must be made of a minimum of 40 percent recycled content), and the fee will increase to 25 cents in 2023.

      Businesses will have one more year to prepare for the discontinuation of plastic bags, and required fees for paper shopping bags, reusable shopping bags, and single-use cups.

      Several bans on disposable items came into effect this year.

      First, foam cups and takeout containers were banned as of January 1.

      After that, a ban on plastic straws came into effect as of April 22. (However, food vendors must provide flexible plastic straws for accessibility upon request.) Bubble tea shops were given a one-year exemption to provide additional time to adapt.

      As of the same day, single-use utensils can only be provided upon request. After January 1, 2023, businesses will have to report the number of distributed paper shopping bags for the previous year if requested to do so by the city.

      For reusable shopping bags (which must be usable for a minimum of 100 times), a minimum charge of $1 is required, with an increase to $2 in 2023. A report of how many reusable bags were distributed over the past year must also be reported if the city asks for the number.

      More information about single-use item bylaws and requirements is available at the City of Vancouver website

      All of these measures are part of the city’s effort to become zero waste by 2040.

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