City of Vancouver prepares for the end of single-use cup fee starting May 1

Mar 29 2023, 1:50 am

As expected, the bylaws to repeal all single-use cup fees and requirements within the City of Vancouver’s borders have been approved.

Earlier today, Vancouver City Council approved the final step to end the controversial $0.25 fee applied to all single-use cups provided to customers. This regulation of requiring businesses to apply such a fee will come to an end on May 1, 2023, following 16 months of enactment and enforcement that first began in January 2022.

In addition to not being forced to charge a fee, businesses also no longer have to report the number of single-use beverage cups when renewing their business license annually, nor will they be forced to accept reusable cups for drinks ordered in-store.

“Food vendors are encouraged to remove the cup fee from their in-store, online, and mobile point of sale systems, menus and receipts by May 1,” reads a release.

Over the coming weeks, City staff will inform businesses, residents, and other impacted stakeholders on the policy change. This includes sending a letter explaining the repeal of the single-use cup fee to all food vendors, and information on ways to communicate these bylaw changes to their customers and employees.

However, the repeal of the single-use cup fee does not impact the other fees and/or restrictions for shopping bags, straws, utensils, and foam cups/containers.

In late 2023, City staff will report back to City Council on recommendations for potential policies and strategies to help reduce single-use cups.

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.

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.

Today’s approval of the relevant bylaws follows City Council’s previous February 15 decision directing City staff to draft the required bylaws.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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