Vancouver’s Ban on Plastic Bags & Single-Use Cups, New Fees

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Vancouver’s ban on plastic bags and fees begins January 1, 2022. City by-laws will go into effect banning plastic shopping bags and requiring businesses to charge fees for paper and new reusable shopping bags, as well as single-use cups.

These new regulations are key to the City’s overall strategy to reduce waste from single-use items, and they join the by-laws for foam, straws and utensils introduced in 2020.

Vancouver’s Ban on Plastic Bags & Single-Use Cups, New Fees

Vancouver’s Ban on Plastic Bags

Starting January 1, businesses can no longer distribute single-use plastic shopping bags to customers. The ban includes plastic shopping bags made from fossil fuels, plastic bags labelled or described as compostable or degradable, and plastic bags made from plants or other biological materials.

Vancouver shoppers will also start paying for paper and new reusable shopping bags if they forget to bring their own. Businesses are required to charge a minimum of $0.15 for a paper shopping bag and $1.00 for a new reusable shopping bag.

Residents should always bring their own reusable bags when they shop to avoid paying bag fees and to reduce single-use waste. Bringing your own bag is allowed during COVID-19, according to BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines. Residents are encouraged to clean their bags regularly using Health Canada cleaning tips available here.

In 2018, about 89 million plastic shopping bags and 4 million paper shopping bags were thrown in the garbage in Vancouver. Despite how common it is for residents to reuse plastic shopping bags (66% are reused as garbage bags), 30 million empty plastic shopping bags were still disposed to garbage in 2018.

Single-Use Cups

On January 1, businesses are required to charge a minimum of $0.25 for each single-use cup. To avoid the fee and reduce waste, bring your own cup. Or, if you’re having a drink to stay, ask for it in a reusable cup. 

The City has worked with Vancouver Coastal Health to ensure that “contactless cup” procedures, which are used in cities around the world, can be used during COVID-19 to safely serve drinks in customers’ cups. 

Single-use cups make up fifteen per cent of large litter on Vancouver streets. In 2018, about 82 million single-use cups were thrown in the garbage in Vancouver. Of these, 51% were paper cups for hot beverages, 25% were paper cups for cold beverages and 24% were plastic cups.

All cup fees must be displayed on menu boards, menus and internet-based ordering platforms, and must be shown as a separate line item on any receipts provided to customers by using wording such as “CUP FEE”.

About the Fees

Businesses keep the fees from cups and shopping bags and are encouraged to use them to cover the cost of complying with the by-laws (e.g. software updates, staff training) and to invest in reusable alternatives, such as dishwashers, reusable cup-share or “take-a-bag, leave-a-bag” programs. 

Read more about the program here.

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