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The City of Vancouver is banning single-use items in 2022. Here's what you need to know

The bylaws could be enforced by fines up to $10,000
stock image single use plastics
The City of Vancouver is banning some single-use items effective Jan 1, 2022. Items include plastic and paper shopping bags, cups, containers, and straws.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the City of Vancouver is introducing a series of bylaws aimed at reducing single-use items as part of a plan to be a Zero Waste city by 2040. 

Originally scheduled to come into effect at the start of 2021, the implementation of cup and shopping bag by-laws was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A year later the by-laws are back, carrying with them the goal of reducing waste and litter and providing support to residents, businesses, and not-for-profits.

Plastic shopping bags 

Under the new bylaws, plastic bags and plastic labelled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from biological materials are banned outright. 

There are exceptions though:

  • Large shopping bags used to transport linens, bedding, or other similar large items that cannot easily fit in a paper or reusable shopping bag.
  • Produce bags, bags used to protect bakery goods, bags used to wrap raw meat, dry cleaning bags, garbage bin liners, sandwich bags, pet waste bags, and compost liners

Paper bags on the other hand are allowed but Vancouver businesses must charge a minimum fee of $0.15 per bag. In 2023, the minimum fee per paper shopping bag is set to increase by another $0.10.

Fees do not apply to the following:

  • Bags in bag-share or take-a-bag, leave-a-bag programs
  • Reusable bags provided by pharmacies
  • Paper bags less than 15 cm x 20 cm when flat,
  • Bags used by a registered charity or not-for-profit to provide food for free or at low cost

Cups

Under the new bylaws businesses are required to charge a minimum $0.25 fee on each single-use cup provided. Like the previous fees, single-use cup fees are kept by the business and do not go to the city. Businesses can still offer discounts to reward customers for choosing reusable cups.

There are exceptions to the fees though:

  • Hospitals and community care facilities
  • Charitable food services
  • Food served in cups, like soup, pudding, frozen desserts
  • Packages of at least 6 single-use cups sold for personal use

Straws

Businesses, charities, and not-for-profit organizations are required to stock flexible, individually wrapped plastic straws for customers who have difficulty drinking. Anyone who asks for a flexible plastic straw should receive one and people are not required to provide any medical information to prove their need. 

With that said the ban on all other plastic straws includes:

  • Plastic made from fossil fuel products
  • Plastic that is labelled or described as compostable, degradable or made from biological materials

Exceptions include: 

  • Hospitals and community care facilities
  • Packages of at least 20 straws sold for personal use
  • Plastic straws attached to drink boxes and drink pouches

Utensils 

This bylaw operates on the customer asking for the utensils. Meaning that for all dine-in, take-out, in-person, online, and telephone orders, vendors can only provide single-use utensils if a customer confirms they want them or takes it themselves at a self-serve station.

The by-law covers single-use spoons, knives, forks, and chopsticks of all material types. 

The exceptions to the rule include:

  • Hospitals and community care facilities
  • Packages of at least 20 single-use utensils sold for personal use

Foam cups and foam containers. 

The ban applies to all polystyrene foam cups and take-out containers used for serving prepared food or beverages. This includes plates, cups, bowls, trays, cartons, and hinged or lidded containers. This includes prepared food that is consumed on the premises, served as take-out or delivery or packaged as leftovers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, charitable food providers may still distribute single-use items with food or meals but are expected to begin working towards complying with the by-laws as soon as possible.

Exemptions to the foam ban include:

  • Hospitals and community care facilities
  • Foam trays used to package uncooked food or foods packaged outside Vancouver
  • Packages of foam cups and foam containers sold for personal use

How the rules will be enforced

If a business is found to be non-compliance with the bylaws the city will initially focus on education and support. Failing that, increasing levels of enforcement may be applied. Enforcement may include issuing tickets, which carry a minimum mine of $500 but could reach as high as $10,000 for each offense.

Ongoing non-compliance may also result in business license suspensions or recommendations for business license revocation.