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Vancouver’s plastic straw ban coming in spring 2020

Ban on foam cups, takeout containers to take effect in January
straw ban
Vancouver city council Monday night approved moving the start date for the ban on the unnecessary use of plastic straws to April 2020. Photo iStock

Vancouver city council Monday night approved revised dates for the bans on plastic straws, and foam cups and takeout containers.

The ban on foam cups and takeout containers will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020 while the ban on the unnecessary use of plastic straws will begin in April 2020. Project manager Monica Kosmak told council that further details on the by-law requirements, including phasing and exemptions for health care needs and accessibility, would come back to council no later than Nov. 30.

The straw ban was initially slated to go into effect June 1, 2019.

“We are committed to working with residents, businesses, non-profits and other levels of government to create lasting change that brings us closer to our goal of becoming a zero waste community by 2040, and in this case, it means providing stakeholders with a bit more time to adjust their business practices,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a news release.

Kosmack said staff will continue to work with individuals who rely on straws for accessibility to allow the by-law to be structured in a way that would not negatively affect people who rely on plastic straws. Staff is currently looking into including a clause that would require businesses to provide a bendable plastic upon request when it is needed for accessibility, while otherwise eliminating the use of other plastic straws.

“This approach would really allow the city to reduce the majority of plastics straws while ensuring accessibility and inclusion,” she said. “What we’re thinking here is rebranding a plastic straw as an accessibility adaptive aid.”

The single-use item reduction strategy was first introduced in June 2017 and, after consultation with businesses and the public, it was adopted by council in June 2018 as part of the Zero Waste 2040 Strategic Plan.

The city is also continuing to look into banning other items, including plastic and paper shopping bags, disposable cups and single-use utensils. Kosmack said more details on the by-law requirements for banning those items will come to council no later than Nov. 30.

“Waste from single-use items, such as cups and take-out containers, make up about 50 per cent of all items collected in public waste bins and are a significant portion of the litter found on Vancouver streets,” Jerry Dobrovolny, general manager of engineering services, said in a news release. “Given that single-use compostable plastic items are not designed to biodegrade when littered in the natural environment and are not accepted in the City’s Green Bin program, the issue of compostable single-use items is quite complex and needs the involvement of higher levels of government to address needs around regulation and technical details.”

Council also approved forwarding a resolution to this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention requesting the provincial government develop a set of standards for compostable single-use items to ensure they, among other things, are designed to fully biodegrade if littered and align with provincial composting infrastructure.