How much money do cafes and restaurants make off the Vancouver cup fee?

Feb 17 2023, 12:40 am

The City of Vancouver will soon axe the controversial cup fee, but how much money are businesses making from it?

The answer varies from cafe to cafe, but using some averages, we can get in the ballpark of just how much businesses are making off of a measly $0.25 per cup charge.

For some background, the City of Vancouver introduced the cup fee in January 2022. Long story short, customers were charged $0.25 for each single-use cup. The policy was intended to encourage customers to bring their own cups.

The hope was that businesses would invest those proceeds into green initiatives, but there was no data to indicate anything like that was happening.

Corporations landfilling up on profits

Diana Vucane/Shutterstock

In 2018, Vancouver estimated that over 82 million single-use cups were thrown into the trash. This was, of course, before the cup fee came into play. Say, for argument’s sake, that the City did have the cup fee in place in 2018. Businesses would’ve collected $20,500,000 from the fee based on the 82 million figure.

We don’t have estimates for how many cups were thrown into the landfill in 2022, when the fee was brought in. Still, if it’s anywhere near that figure, that is a staggering amount of money consumers have given away to large chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s.

These numbers aren’t meant to name and shame any establishment. After all, it wasn’t Starbucks or Tim Hortons that decided to implement the plan.

But how much extra cash do the big establishments make?

There are varying numbers on how many cups of coffee a chain like Starbucks sells daily, but some websites say it’s anywhere between 500 to 600 cups per day per store in the USA.

Let’s say the average Vancouver Starbucks sells 400 single-use cups of coffee per day. That’s 100 dollars per day, per store. Vancouver has around 65 locations, meaning Starbucks makes $6,500 off the cup fee daily. In a month? That’s nearly $200,000.

City councillor Lenny Zhou made some remarks at a council meeting on Wednesday night, suggesting that between 8:15 and 9:15 am on a random weekday morning, he observed 107 cups sold to 97 customers at a “major franchise coffee shop” in Vancouver, and no one had a reusable cup.

City staff will amend policies to enable the end of the mandatory $0.25 fee charged on every single-use cup given out by businesses by no later than June 1, 2023. This means until then, these businesses will continue to profit. And even after that, nothing is forcing these businesses to stop charging you.

If this ruffles your feathers the wrong way, some might suggest the best thing you can do is what the City of Vancouver hoped you would do, bring your own cup.

With files from Kenneth Chan

Amir AliAmir Ali

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