Vancouver city staff are researching possible methods to cut down on the number of coffee cups, plastic bags and polystyrene food packaging that often end up in the city's litter.

The options on the table include banning their use, applying deposits or fees, and mandating recycling or take-back programs, according to a staff report.

Albert Shamess, the city's director of waste management and resource recovery, said these single-use items are increasingly ending up in the city's public garbage bins.

"When we do a survey, a lot of it comes down to things like fast food packaging, coffee cups and plastic bags," Shamess told B.C. Almanac host Michelle Eliot.

"They're very difficult to deal with in the public realm, and they're also very challenging to deal with on the recycling side."

A report that went to city council on Feb. 3 asked that council direct city staff to research and report back on possible regulations to address the "distribution, use, and recycling of commonly disposed items designed for single use."

The report said these materials can currently be recycled through the curbside residential recycling program or through depots or the retailers themselves.

"Nevertheless, a significant amount of these materials are disposed in the city's litter and garbage collection program, and reducing their distribution at the point of sale, if possible, is preferable from a waste management and environmental protection perspective."

Cautious about a ban

Shamess said staff want to discuss the issue with various stakeholders and those who produce these materials, "rather than just having the municipality impose a ban which may have some unintended consequences."

Previously, when similar measures were proposed, there was a concern about what effect a ban on plastic bags would have on the low-income and homeless community, some of whom use the bags on a daily basis, he noted.

"We want to make sure that what we do actually provides some long term sustainable benefit."

The report also suggests increasing the maximum fine for illegal dumping from $2,000 to $10,000.

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver city considering deposits, fees or ban of single-use items like coffee cups