British Columbia

Metro Vancouverites threw out 1.1 billion single-use items last year, study finds

A new study looked into what kind of single-use items were being thrown away across Metro Vancouver, which included anything from snack wrappers to chopsticks.

That works out to about 440 items per resident

Plastic bottles and bags are often discarded with other garbage. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

From plastic bags to chopsticks and coffee cups, more than 1.1 billion single-use items filled up Metro Vancouver's landfills in 2018, a new study has found. 

As well as tallying the total number of single-use items — which works out to about 440 items per resident — the study, commissioned by Metro Vancouver, looked into what kind of items were being thrown out.

During 2018, more than 250 million retail bags ended up in the garbage — that included plastic and paper bags as well as bags labelled as compostable.

The study also found more than 260 million single-use cups and 100 million straws were discarded.

The highest number was for utensils, at 331 million, which works out to about 130 items per person.

Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste project manager Karen Storry says much of that could have been avoided, noting that two-thirds of the utensils thrown out were made out of wood and were, therefore, compostable.

"One thing I think that could be an easy win is just putting our chopsticks in the green bin," Storry told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"There are so many different things that go into the waste and there's a lot of education that's needed to help people understand what goes where."

Breaking down the waste by sectors, the study found retails bags were the most disposed item for single and multi-family homes, while the commercial sector threw out utensils more than any other single-use item. 

A breakdown of the single-use items disposal per capita across all sectors. (TRI Environmental Consulting )

Storry said almost half of the region's single-use waste came from the commercial sector. 

"When it comes to waste we are all responsible and we all have to do what we can do," Storry added. 

The study comes a day after the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled against the City of Victoria's ban of single-use plastic bags.

Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver voted to ban plastic straws, foam cups and containers as part of the city's Zero Waste 2040 strategy.

250 million retail bags ended up in the garbage in 2018, according to Metro Vancouver, including plastic, paper and compostable bags. (TRI Environmental Consulting )

With files from The Early Edition

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