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Vancouver approves ban on straws, plastic bags

Details released on possible single-use plastic ban in Vancouver
There are new details from a city staff report on Vancouver's plans to phase out single-use disposable plastic products. Aaron McArthur reports.

Vancouver city council has approved a ban on plastic straws, set to kick in next spring.

It’s part of the city’s single-use item waste reduction strategy, approved last summer.

Council voted to approve report to council which recommended banning plastic and compostable plastic straws by Earth Day 2020 (Apr. 22), with a one-year exemption for bubble tea straws.

READ MORE: 4 in 5 British Columbians support a federal ban on single use plastic: poll

However, it recommended that paper-wrapped accessible, bendable straws be available for people who ask for them.

A second phase of regulation will roll out on Jan. 1, 2021.

Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags
Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags

Phase 2 includes a 25 cent fee for disposable cups, and require disposable utensils to be available by request only.

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It also bans plastic shopping bags and require paper bags to be made from 40 per cent recycled content.

“It’s really important that the regulations are simple,” said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung ahead of the vote.

“You see the impact of plastics in our oceans and we hear about that every day in terms of microplastics … The best alternative is to bring your own bag, if you can, and the next best is paper.”

READ MORE: Vancouver prepares businesses to phase out foam ahead of city-wide ban

The report recommends a 15 cent fee for paper bags and a $1 fee for reusable bags, which would increase to 25 cents and $2 after one year.

And it recommends the city work with marginalized groups to identify potential negative impacts of the new regulations.

City of Vancouver votes to ban single-use plastic straws and Styrofoam cups
City of Vancouver votes to ban single-use plastic straws and Styrofoam cups
“[The proposed regulations] have been developed through extensive engagement with the public, businesses and a multitude of stakeholders and are supported by technical research,” states the report.

“The timing of implementation balances the urgency to take action on public litter, zero waste and plastic pollution with the availability of viable alternatives, the need to avoid negative impacts to businesses, provide suitable time for them to prepare, address potential negative impacts to marginalized residents and allow the City to raise public awareness of the coming changes through communications and outreach campaigns.”

The straw ban has attracted significant criticism from disability advocates, who say it is discriminatory and further stigmatizes people with disabilities.

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“The City of Vancouver consciously and deliberately created stigma, marginalization, exclusion and worsened inaccessibility,” wrote Gabrielle Peters on Twitter after the passage of the ban.

“Good thing Vancouver voted NOT to ban balloons tho huh? Because *that* would be wrong unlike banning straws that disabled people need to drink.”

Mathy Stanislaus, circular economy fellow with the World Resources Institute, said dealing with single-use plastics is an important step in dealing with the plastic waste problem, but that it could come with unintended consequences.

He said the production of paper bags, for example, produce a much larger carbon footprint than plastic bags.

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“We have to look at it from a systematic perspective,” he said.

“We need to invest more in the collection side, we need to enable the collection in a way that creates high-quality recyclables, and then over time we need to go upstream to have more products that are recyclable.”

READ MORE: Vancouver postpones ban on plastic straws, while Surrey gives it green light

Vancouver is already set to phase out disposable foam takeout containers on Jan. 1, 2020.

Earlier this month, the city launched its toolkits for businesses, which gives store owners a clear rundown of what will be accepted and what’s no longer allowed.

Hospitals and care facilities are exempt from that ban over health concerns, while charities have been given a one-year exemption.