Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said his ABC party would scrap the 25-cent disposable cup fee unless there was proof it was reducing waste.
A plan by Vancouver’s ABC Majority Council to scrap the city’s controversial single-use cup fee is drawing mixed reactions. Supporters of the measure say the fee is unnecessarily “punitive” to consumers and small businesses. Critics say it’s a “tragedy” and an afterthought at a time when city dumps are awash with disposable cups.
The debate has left both sides wondering how best to deal with cups, which with covers and bins make up 22 percent of the “large trash” (10cm or larger) on Vancouver streets, according to Recycle BC. .
“What we’ve heard from the business community and residents is that the cup fee just doesn’t work, that it’s punitive,” Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said in a State of the City address to the Board of Greater Vancouver trade this week.
Sim said the council would be open to other suggestions to reduce the estimated 82 million disposable cups thrown away each year in Vancouver. And if not, he said the fee will end, echoing what the Council says. Rebecca Bligh said that last week the fees were finished before the summer.
Any business serving a drink in a disposable cup in Vancouver as of January 1, 2022 must charge 25 cents, post signs, and itemize the charge on receipts. The restaurant keeps the fee because the city does not have the authority to collect a tax and businesses are encouraged, but not required, to provide alternatives, such as glassware or reusable cups to share.
Cody Irwin, who founded ShareWares, one of the two major shared drink companies that together signed about 100 companies last year, said it’s a “tragedy” that the city is bailing out before it has a chance to change behavior.
Irwin said he’s in talks with companies, including a large corporation he can’t name because the deal isn’t final, and summer festivals interested in offering shared drinks.
“We are almost there, just a few months away” from increasing the number of trading partners, he said.
Without the pressure of a fee, Irwin has said the momentum toward broad acceptance of reusables in Vancouver and other cities will be lost. Businesses without a shared cup option must count and disclose the number of disposable cups used before renewing their 2023 business license
“This will set us back a decade” in waste reduction, Irwin said. “Vancouver could be the leader in circular economy, the most sustainable city in the world.”
“Every other city in Canada is looking at us,” Irwin said. “This could be the catalyst for change… that could spread everywhere. But just cutting off his head without giving him a chance would be a great shame.”
If Vancouver removes its fee, businesses already willing or considering drink sharing could bail out, and other businesses and cities could also drop their plans.
“Let’s say if the fee is removed and I think they (ABC board members) have the numbers to vote against it, I would say our members would be happy with that,” said Greg Wilson of the Retail Council’s BC branch. of Canada.
Small businesses find it costly and time consuming to comply with the statute, he said, calling it a stick instead of a carrot in getting more retailers to change the way they serve beverages.
The council is calling for a policy that encourages companies to reduce the amount of plastic cups, plastic-lined cups and plastic lids, which are difficult to recycle or end up in landfill because the cups are often thrown into waste bins. recycling with other garbage.
“We need more consistency from those recycling bins and collection systems,” he said. “It’s easier if the sorting is done in the recycling bins.”
“I can appreciate that it was quite an unpopular fee,” Vancouver Council said. Pete Fry, who was among the council members who voted for the fee based on the engineering staff’s recommendation.
And he said the city could have better explained to consumers that the cost of the cup before the fee was imposed was already included in the price and this policy allowed people to avoid paying for it by bringing their own cup. Some cafes and restaurants offer consumers a bring-your-own-cup discount and some continue to offer both deductions.
The province may need to add a province-wide deposit on glasses such as the tax on beverage bottles and cans and other containers.
Jennifer Henry, who founded Perk Eco, a cup recycling company, said there was no evidence that the fee significantly reduced cup waste and that the answer is to recycle more disposables.
His start-up, which has 14 registered cafes, offers a recycling system for cups and lids that ensures they are emptied and stacked in a tube installed in restaurants and recycled and do not end up in landfill.
According to the City of Vancouver’s website, “Recycle BC accepts poly-layer paper cups in its home recycling program, but many businesses do not accept them because their waste collection companies have difficulty accessing recycling markets.”
That’s because they’re harder to recycle because of the plastic lining and because cups often become contaminated when thrown into bins, even those clearly marked for cups, because other waste and liquids get mixed up, Henry said.
Perk Eco charges a suggested fee of 25 cents per cup and said most cafes use that fee for recycling costs and break-even, making the system revenue and cost neutral.
Perk Eco collects stacks of cups and lids and recycles or sends them for recycling in a carbon offset process.
“The fee is coupled with a significant reduction in landfills,” he said.
Henry, who is also a member of the Society for the Promotion of Environmental Conservation, said he supports Vancouver’s goal of reducing the amount of disposables issued by restaurants, but said a 2018 UK study that included a 10 Canadian cents a cup at London Starbucks increased the number of people bringing their own cups to almost six percent of purchases, from less than three percent.
He said cafes he signed up for, including the Bean Around the World cafe in West Vancouver, an early adopter of the Perk Eco method, discovered last year that there was a four per cent drop in disposables.
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