Starting Saturday, the cost of a coffee or a trip to the grocery store in Vancouver could cost a little more, as the city aims to cut single-use cups and plastic bags.
Under a new bylaw taking effect Jan. 1, the city is banning the use of plastic shopping bags. Consumers will be charged an extra 25 cents for disposable cups, and an extra 15 cents for paper bags or $1 for reusable bags.
The fees were meant to take effect at the start of 2021, but were postponed amid COVID-19.
Businesses will keep the new fees, and are being urged to reinvest the money to switch to reusable alternatives to single-use items.
The new by-laws are important elements of Vancouver’s strategy to reduce single-use item waste. They’re an addition existing by-laws regarding plastic straws, utensils, and foam containers that went into effect in 2020.
According to the city, people in Vancouver threw out more than 82 million single-use cups and 89 million plastic bags in 2018 alone.
The city estimates the cost to collect and dispose of those items runs at about $2.5 million per year, and says many end up in the landfill.
The move comes as the federal government puts forward its own draft regulations to ban six kinds of “harmful” single-use plastics, including straws, six-pack rings, grocery bags and cutlery. Those rules are expected to come into effect by the end of 2022.
That federal ban remains widely popular among British Columbians, according to a new survey from B.C.-based pollster ResearchCo.
The poll found 82 per cent of respondents in B.C. supported the move, unchanged from January 2021.
Just over three-quarters of respondents said they already have reusable grocery bags, with higher use among older British Columbians.
Sierra Club Canada national program director Gretchen Fitzgerald applauded the move, which she says would save the city, and thus the taxpayer, money in the end.
“You’re either paying at the cash or you’re paying on your tax bill or you’re paying through a loss of enjoyment of the environment. So I think putting that small price at the front actually gives an indication to the public, and to the consumer, what the price to the consumers really actually are,” she said.
“You may use that cup or lid for an hour, and then it becomes waste. So I think it’s a minimal price to pay, and if it encourages people to start using alternatives I think that’s a small step to take.”
In a statement, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, which represents major plastics producers, said plastics have a lower environmental footprint than most alternatives.
It said rather than bans, the focus should be on investing in recycling infrastructure and innovation to “harness the $8 billion value of plastics that are currently sent ot landfill and recirculate them in the economy.”
“When government and industry work together we can create solutions that meet environmental and economic goals,” the association said.
Earlier this year, the provincial government moved to allow municipalities to pass their own plastics bans without government approval. That move came after the plastic industry successfully challenged a City of Victoria ban on the grounds that it exceeded municipal authority.
You can find out more about Vancouver’s single-use item reduction strategy here.