British Columbia

Vancouver pushes plastic bag ban, disposable cup fee to 2022 due to COVID-19 pressure on businesses

Council passed a motion delaying the previously approved ban until Jan. 1, 2022, instead of the original Jan. 1, 2021. 

Councillors said stores needed more time to adjust given this year's additional burdens

A number of municipalities across British Columbia have already banned plastic bags, including Victoria. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Businesses in Vancouver will be able to give out plastic bags and free disposable cups for another year.

Council passed a motion delaying previously approved changes on those items until Jan. 1, 2022, instead of the original Jan. 1, 2021. 

"The pandemic has changed things," said Coun. Lisa Dominato. "I think there's many businesses that aren't in a state of readiness." 

The new rules, which have not changed, include:

  • Banning plastic shopping bags (with exceptions for shopping bags used to transport large bulky items).
  • A minimum fee of 15 cents for paper shopping bags — going up to 25 cents after one year — with at least 40 per cent recycled content.
  • A minimum fee of 25 cents on disposable cups (with exceptions for charitable food services, hospitals and community care facilities).  

The B.C. government has already approved civic bylaws banning single-use plastics in several municipalities, and has signalled provincewide regulations for some items are coming. 

Supply chain and staffing issues

According to city staff, "while the business community has expressed support … they have recently expressed a number of significant concerns around timing, particularly with enforcement, due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Those include reduced revenues, businesses having less capacity to source alternative bags or cups, and issues with supply chains for paper bags with  40 per cent recycled content. 

Staff originally proposed the 2021 deadline would continue to be in place, but with no enforcement until 2022. However, Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung put forward a successful amendment to move the deadline to 2022. 

"It's important that there's clarity when we implement procedures," she said. 

""I was quite enthusiastic to these changes … it is disappointing to have to delay this work, but we do have to realize we're in a pandemic, and that has had so many impacts."

The amendment passed 6-5 — with Mayor Kennedy Stewart joining the four NPA councillors and independent Coun. Rebecca Bligh in support — with the overall motion passing unanimously. 

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