Suck it up: Van­cou­ver votes to ban plas­tic straws

Foam cups also to be elim­i­nated by June 2019

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - Dou­glas Quan

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 take-out con­tain­ers make up 50 per cent of items col­lected in pub­lic trash bins. Plas­tic straws are not eas­ily re­cy­cled and can harm an­i­mals if in­gested, 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 take-out 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 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 small­busi­ness own­ers would have to ab­sorb the costs, which would be passed on to con­sumers.

Among 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.

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