Suck it up: Vancouver set to ban straws
Foam containers part of move to reduce waste
VANCOUVER • In what’s believed to be a first for Canada, Vancouver has approved a ban on the use of plastic drinking straws and foam cups and containers by June 2019.
City council approved the ban, plus a suite of other measures to reduce singleuse items, late Wednesday after hearing from staff that cups and takeout containers make up 50 per cent of items collected in public trash bins. Plastic straws are not easily recycled, council was told.
“This is a really important step forward to demonstrate how serious we are in phasing out plastic waste,” Mayor Gregor Robertson told council before the vote. The June 2019 implementation date is six months ahead of what staff had initially proposed. In addition to phasing out plastic straws and polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers, which have become endemic in our “grab and go” culture, city council approved a plan to require businesses to develop strategies for reducing the amount of disposable cups and plastic shopping bags, such as charging fees for their use or just ditching them altogether.
Each week, 2.6 million plastic-lined cups and two million plastic bags are tossed in the garbage, council heard.
Annual waste reduction targets will be created in the
IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD TO DEMONSTRATE HOW SERIOUS WE ARE IN PHASING OUT PLASTIC WASTE.
next six months for those items. If the targets aren’t met by 2021, the city could move to more aggressive measures, such as a ban. City staff are recommending a $250 fine for breaching the bylaw, however the initial response will be on education, a spokeswoman said.
Some speakers warned council of potential impacts on people reliant on plastic bags and straws, including those with disabilities and living on low incomes. Representatives of the plastics industry told council that a ban would not solve the litter problem and could lead to “unintended consequences” and that small business owners would have to absorb the costs, which would be passed on to consumers. Among those businesses affected by the ban are bubble tea vendors.
Katie Fung, a representative for Pearl Fever Tea House, told council before the vote that she supports the city’s aims to reduce plastic waste. But she asked to delay the ban on plastic straws so that vendors could have more time to explore alternatives, such as compostable straws or reusable cups and straws.
“Our industry does depend on straws” and introducing a ban next year will be “detrimental to many businesses in our city,” she said.
Robertson encouraged entrepreneurs in the city to step forward with alternative solutions to plastic straws that could be marketed globally.
The city’s actions come amid a global movement to reduce plastic waste and single-use items. At the beginning of this year, Montreal introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags. Plastic straws and utensils will be prohibited in Seattle starting July 1.
Bubble-tea vendors are concerned that the impending straw ban will impact sales of the Asian tapioca drinks.