City of Vancouver proposes modifying mandatory single-use cup fee policy

Feb 28 2022, 8:41 pm

Some aspects of the City of Vancouver’s newly implemented mandatory policy requiring businesses to charge a minimum $0.25 fee for single-use cups are expected to change.

This week, Vancouver City Council is scheduled to consider city staff’s recommendations of removing the cup fee requirement for free drinks, including free drink vouchers, monetary gift vouchers, free drinking water, and points or rewards programs. If approved, this would begin on March 29, 2022.

This particular policy change also addresses concerns that the mandatory cup fee, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, has been placing extra costs on low-income individuals.

Moreover, city staff would work with non-profits, social enterprises, low-cost neighbourhood businesses, and other organizations that deal with low-income individuals, given that they face higher operating costs from the city’s various restrictive single-use item policies.

Revisions to the policy would also require businesses to accept reusable cups for drinks ordered in-store starting on July 1, 2022. The single-use cup fee is intended to encourage customers to bring their own cup, but over the past two months, many businesses have refused to handle reusable cups from their customers for reasons that include health safety, especially during the recent Omicron spike, and logistical challenges. Customers are effectively being forced to pay the fee because there is no other option.

According to City staff, large chains and franchises are “lagging behind” small businesses and local chains in giving their customers the option to avoid the $0.25 fee.

It should be emphasized that revenues collected from the $0.25 fee are kept by businesses, not the municipal government. The City’s policy is intended to provide businesses with a revenue source to invest in reusable alternatives, but there is no guarantee for the revenue to be used this way.

City staff state there is a need to address the “mistrust” in the use of the fee revenue by businesses. Some food vendors have expressed to the city they prefer to use the revenue from cup fees to cover the cost of single-use cups made from compostable plastic, rather than making reusable alternatives available.

If the policy revisions are approved, City staff would also report back within 18 months with a timeline and options to require businesses to provide additional reusable options for to-stay and to-go drinks.

City staff is bringing these various recommendations, just two months into the policy’s implementation, after City Council directed them in late January to pursue policy changes.

On January 1, the city implemented the policy of banning plastic shopping bags and mandating minimum fees of $0.15 for a paper shopping bag and $1.00 for a new reusable shopping bag.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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