City of Vancouver expected to abolish single-use cup fee by early June

Feb 8 2023, 9:39 pm

The extra $0.25 paid for every single-use cup dispensed by businesses within the jurisdiction of City of Vancouver is set to come to an end before Summer 2023.

A new member motion by ABC City Councillor Rebecca Bligh directs City staff to abolish the mandatory quarter fee no later than June 1. The proposal is scheduled to be deliberated by City Council next week, with the ABC majority expected to approve this repeal.

In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized last month, Mayor Ken Sim said his team was in the process of looking into getting rid of the fee imposed by the municipal government.

“I can tell you that the overwhelming response from businesses and residents is that it’s not working, and it’s hurting,” said Sim, who also subsequently highlighted this forthcoming policy reversal in his recent first annual address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

“When we have an affordability crisis, it makes a difference, and it’s hurting a lot of people. And by default, it’s hurting a lot of businesses, and it’s not effective.”

In her motion, Bligh states the implementation of the fee has resulted in “numerous unintended consequences and publicly-identified concerns became apparent almost immediately, and were widely reported in the media and on social media.” This includes impacts on people experiencing homelessness and other lower-income residents.

Furthermore, she says the feedback received clearly indicates the policy has not been effective in accomplishing its intended goal of changing consumer behaviour of consuming drinks using single-use cups less frequently — which ultimately end up in the landfill — and encouraging the adoption of reusable cups.

“It is incumbent upon Council to explore other policy options and pathways in order to achieve the desired and intended waste reduction outcomes,” wrote Bligh. The motion directs City staff to return to City Council before the end of this year with a report outlining recommendations on alternative policies that are more effective in changing behaviours.

It should be noted that the City’s jurisdictional powers do not allow it to collect the fee as a tax, nor can they force businesses on using the revenue in specific ways, such as green initiatives.

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 collecting at least over $20 million in revenue on an annual basis — and this figure does not include single-use cups that are disposed of in other ways, such as in the garbage of homes and businesses.

Her motion does not propose any changes to regulations relating to single-use bags, and other single-use items like cutlery and straws. Federal regulations that recently came into effect are also requiring the country to shift away from single-use plastics.

The single-use cup fee first came into effect in January 2022. In March 2022, Bligh proposed an amendment to kill the fee but was unsuccessful.


Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ Dished
+ News
+ Venture
+ Politics
+ City Hall