Two councilors say the fee has not been shown to reduce the number of cups dispensed
A councilwoman who tried to scrap Vancouver’s 25-cent single-use cup fee last year says she’ll try again before the summer.
But this time, Rebecca Bligh is part of the majority on the ABC Vancouver board.
“The status quo isn’t working,” Bligh said Friday, days after Postmedia reported that customers paid millions of dollars using disposable cups at city cafes and restaurants because of a fee mandated by the city on Jan. 2022.
“Under this new advice, we hope to address the issue before the summer break.”
The council that was in office before last fall’s election voted against Bligh’s motion to remove the fee last spring.
He said ABC is committed to reducing the city’s waste because of its impact on the climate.
But he said there are times when receiving a disposable cup is unavoidable, such as through delivery, ordering through the app for pickup, or at events like a hockey game or PNE. Some customers have complained that some outlets, including large chains, do not always offer reusable glassware or cups as an alternative to a disposable cup.
“The fee is incredibly punitive and we need to address that,” Bligh said.
The statute requires any business that sells takeout cups to charge 25 cents for each cup given to a customer and post the new rate on menus and menu boards. Restaurants and cafes are encouraged, but not required, to use the money raised to provide glassware for seated customers and a reusable option, called the cup-share program, for those who need a cup to go.
The city said the fee is necessary to reduce the 82 million cups, worth $20.5 million in 25-cent fees, that end up in its landfills each year, according to cited 2018 statistics.
The city did not set a goal or objective for the program. More than a year after the start of the program, city staff recently told Postmedia that they won’t be able to collect and analyze data from 2022 showing the fee’s effect on trash until 2024.
Bligh said the council has been told the 2022 data will be available in a report this fall.
“We are working with staff to try to get an update on the first year of data, now scheduled for September 2023,” Bligh said in an email this week. “We need this expedited.”
Earl Sarah Kirby-Yung said on Friday that the lack of accountability for fee income under the statute was one of the reasons she voted against the statute. She voted to rescind when Bligh’s motion was defeated last year.
The statute also requires any establishment that does not offer a shared cup option to report the number of disposable cups it dispensed before being able to renew its 2023 business license. When the city finally releases that information, it will be for the combined total, not businesses. individuals, which, according to Kirby-Yung, will not bring liability to companies.
“A lot of people question the 25-cent fee,” he said. “It’s just become an additional cost to the consumer.”
She said the adoption of a shared reusable cups program, which involved complicated logistics for businesses in tracking deposit fees and providing drop-off deposits, “didn’t take off as much as (the city) hoped.”
“This is a case of politics getting ahead of the technology” needed to run a successful program, he said.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a difference” in the number of cups that end up in landfills, he said.
Two of the leading shared drink companies have signed fewer than 100 cafeterias and restaurants in the first year.
Supporters of the program have said that chains are working on alternatives to disposable cups and that two large restaurant chains in Vancouver are participating in a pilot project involving Encorp Pacific (Canada) which is setting up collection stations through its Return-It program.
But Kirby-Yung said those national chains are planning the same waste reduction steps across the country and that Vancouver is the only municipality charging a fee to customers.
Before the fee’s possible removal, customers will still pay the 25-cent fee for each draw and it will be up to the businesses, not the city, to educate them about the alternatives, council members said.
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