Vancouver to officially ban plastic grocery bags by 2021

Nov 28 2019, 10:56 am

Grocery stores and take-out restaurants in Vancouver will soon no longer be allowed to offer up plastic bags to their customers, after city council voted to ban their use, beginning in January of 2021.

The move is the latest element in the city’s Zero Waste 2040 Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy.

“We have heard loud and clear that reducing waste from single-use items is important to residents and that bold action is needed,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

The bylaw proposes a number of bans on single-use items including plastic and disposable plastic straws by April 22, 2020, and plastic bags, with fees on paper and reusable bags by January 1, 2021.

Once the ban is in effect, paper bags will be made available in grocery stores for customers. These bags must contain at least 40% recycled content and will be made available for a minimum fee of 15 cents per paper bag, and $1 fee per reusable bag for the first year.

Minimum fees increase January 1, 2022 to 25 cents per paper bag, and $2 per reusable bag.

“In the coming months, as businesses take action to reduce waste and comply with the by-laws, translated toolkits will be available online and print copies by-request to help businesses find affordable, accessible, and reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives,” said Cheryl Nelms, Acting General Manager of Engineering Services.

A public awareness campaign will also be launched in advance of the by-laws to encourage behaviour change in residents, tourists, businesses and their staff.”

In the staff report, the city said the Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy was developed with input from over 8,000 people and hundreds of businesses. It was supplemented with further input from an additional 213 businesses and 7,119 members of the public through a Talk Vancouver survey on shopping bags.

According to the city, approximately two million plastic shopping bags are thrown in the garbage in Vancouver each week, with 63% of those used as garbage bags themselves.

Plastic bags also make up 3% of shoreline litter, 2% of large litter items in Vancouver streets, parks, and public spaces, and 1% of large street litter items. The city also noted it can take anywhere from 10 to 10,000 years for a plastic shopping bag to decompose.