Vancouver's mandatory $0.25 single-use cup fee to end this May

Mar 22 2023, 10:46 pm

The $0.25 single-use cup fee that customers must pay to businesses located within the borders of the City of Vancouver will come to an end a month earlier than Vancouver City Council’s imposed deadline for such a policy change.

Next week, Vancouver City Council is expected to approve the bylaws outlined by City staff, which have indicated the bylaw amendments would come into force and take effect on May 1, 2023.

All bylaws regulating and enforcing the $0.25 single-use cup fee will come to an end at that time.

The drafting of the bylaws follows the ABC Vancouver party’s majority-driven decision on February 15, 2023, directing City staff to end the single-use cup fee by no later than June 1, 2023.

The controversial single-use cup fee went into effect on January 1, 2022.

While the fee is applied like a tax, the municipal government does not collect the revenue. Businesses have been keeping all revenues, as the municipal government does not have the jurisdictional authority to collect the revenues for its own use, nor can it dictate to businesses how they can use their revenues. Despite these regulatory challenges, the fee was still approved by the previous makeup of City Council.

The municipal government estimates over 82 million single-use cups were thrown into the garbage in Vancouver in 2018, and this contributes to the $2.5 million annual operating cost of collecting single-use items from City-operated public garbage bins and the pick-up of litter from streets and public spaces.

Based on 2018’s single-use cup volumes, businesses across Vancouver could be conservatively collecting at least over $20 million in revenue on an annual basis.

The intent of the single-use cup fee was to reduce garbage volumes and litter on streets and public spaces and encourage the public and businesses to use reusable cups. However, according to the ABC’s elected members and industry representatives in favour of rescinding the policy, the transition to reusable cups has failed to gain any traction.

“I will always have a reusable cup on me, that is the irony of me moving on all of this. It is about consumer choice. People are resigned to the fact that they pay a fee now for convenience, and that’s not something I want to be a part of as a government. It is that red tape that we hear so often — making life harder, and making businesses harder to get by in the day-to-day,” said ABC councillor Rebecca Bligh, who moved the successful member motion to rescind the policy, during the public meeting last month.

“Vancouver all on its own, in a massive country, is thinking it’s winning the climate war because it has a 25-cent cup fee? It’s insanity. It’s actually insanity.”

While businesses will no longer be legally required to add $0.25 to the cost of a beverage in a single-use cup starting in May, it remains to be seen how many businesses will keep the fee or increase the cost of their drinks after removing the fee, especially in the current challenging economic and inflationary environment.

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