Van­cou­ver to ban plas­tic straws at food-ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - ME­LANIE WOODS

Van­cou­ver will be­come the first ma­jor Cana­dian city to ban plas­tic drink­ing straws, as it re­duces its reliance on dis­pos­able sin­gleuse items that end up in land­fills or in­cin­er­a­tors.

The straw ban, which takes ef­fect in the fall of next year, is part of a suite of waste-re­duc­ing poli­cies adopted this week that also in­cludes a ban on the dis­tri­bu­tion of poly­styrene foam cups and con­tain­ers, as well as re­stric­tions on dis­pos­able cups and plas­tic shop­ping bags. Ac­cord­ing to the pol­icy passed unan­i­mously at city coun­cil on Wed­nes­day, the city aims to com­pletely elim­i­nate the dis­posal of solid waste by 2040.

“It’s a coastal city, with the plas­tic items hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, we feel it’s im­por­tant to take ac­tion,” City of Van­cou­ver di­rec­tor of waste man­age­ment and re­source re­cov­ery Al­bert Shamess told The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Shamess said peo­ple will still be able to buy sin­gle-use straws from re­tail out­lets for their homes, as the ban is in­tended to tar­get food-ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties.

Van­cou­ver is the lat­est city in Canada to tar­get plas­tic waste. Other ju­ris­dic­tions across the coun­try have placed bans or re­stric­tions on plas­tic shop­ping bags.

The city’s ban on plas­tic drink­ing straws, foam cups and foam take-out con­tain­ers will ap­ply to restau­rants and ven­dors with city busi­ness li­cences. The city is still work­ing out de­tails for en­force­ment and is con­sid­er­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion to pun­ish of­fend­ers with a $250 ticket through com­plaints and spot-checks.

Ian Tosten­son, the pres­i­dent of the BC Restau­rant and Food Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion, said that while it will be an ad­just­ment, the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits out­weigh any po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial prob­lems that will come from phas­ing out sin­gle-use straws and other con­tain­ers. “Restau­rants will make the ad­just­ment and sup­ply chains will make the ad­just­ment,” he said. “Change like this can be costly and can be in­con­ve­nient, but if we keep this big­ger picture in mind, es­pe­cially in terms of the en­vi­ron­ment, it’s a no-brainer.”

Ac­cord­ing to the City of Van­cou­ver, ap­prox­i­mately 57 mil­lion straws are used in Canada ev­ery day and 2.6 mil­lion dis­pos­able cups are thrown away in Van­cou­ver ev­ery week.

The waste-reduction poli­cies prompted con­cerns from se­niors and dis­abil­ity ad­vo­cates, who said peo­ple with re­duced mo­bil­ity and oral health-care needs de­pend on straws. The city has said it will con­tinue to work with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, the Se­niors’ Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and so­cial-ser­vice providers in the Down­town East­side to find ways to ac­com­mo­date those groups.

Bub­ble-tea re­tail­ers, who serve drinks with over­sized straws to ac­com­mo­date pieces of tapi­oca and jelly, also said the ban could hurt their busi­ness.

The city said it would take those con­cerns into ac­count. The anti-plas­tic move­ment is gain­ing mo­men­tum world­wide. Over the past year, many Van­cou­ver restau­rants have in­de­pen­dently elim­i­nated sin­gle-use straws or only pro­vided them to cus­tomers on re­quest. Deep Cove − a small com­mu­nity on the Van­cou­ver re­gion’s north shore − moved ear­lier this month to elim­i­nate plas­tic straws. And many other cities across Canada are in­tro­duc­ing their own plas­tic-reduction plans, in­clud­ing Vic­to­ria’s ban on sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, which will go into ef­fect next month.

In Feb­ru­ary, city coun­cil in Mal­ibu, Calif., voted to ban re­tail­ers from sell­ing plas­tic straws and uten­sils to cus­tomers ef­fec­tive June 1. Scot­land and Tai­wan both have plans to na­tion­ally ban sin­gle-use straws. In April, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May an­nounced that her coun­try will work to ban sin­gle-use straws and cot­ton swabs in an at­tempt to na­tion­ally ban plas­tic waste by 2042. She urged other Com­mon­wealth coun­tries − in­clud­ing Canada − to do the same.

JONATHAN HAY­WARD/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Van­cou­ver’s straw ban is part of a suite of waste-re­duc­ing poli­cies adopted this week that also in­cludes a ban on the dis­tri­bu­tion of poly­styrene foam cups and con­tain­ers.

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