British Columbia

Vancouver seeks ideas to stem tide of cups, containers and bags

The City of Vancouver wants your ideas on how to prevent 2.6 million disposable cups from ending up in the trash every week. 'I think that people don't know that they can recycle them, so that's one thing we'd like get the word out about,' city official Monica Kosmak.

City says 2.6 million cups go in trash every week even though they're recyclable

The City of Vancouver is seeking suggestions to prevent 2.6 million disposable coffee cups from being thrown in the trash in the city each week. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

The City of Vancouver says it's serious about tackling one of the most ubiquitous items involved in modern life in the city: disposable cups, containers and bags.

To address the issue, it's created a temporary storefront at 511 West Broadway where residents can submit their ideas on how to prevent coffee cups, and other items, from landing in landfills.

In June, officials released a report showing that 2.6 million disposable cups wind up in the trash in Vancouver every week. Two million plastic bags are thrown out every week as well.

"That is a lot of waste," said resident Sharon Lazare, who went to the Broadway location Saturday to offer ideas on how the city should deal with the garbage.
The City of Vancouver says the amount of disposable cups in this box is equivalent to the amount thrown out in the city every five minutes, every day. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

The city says disposable cups make up 22 per cent of garbage collected from streets.

The problem costs the city millions of dollars a year to dispose of, and harms the environment, say officials.

At least recycle it

"I think that people don't know that they can recycle [the cups], so that's one thing we'd like to get the word out about," said Monica Kosmak, a project manager for the city's zero waste program.

Since releasing its report about the amount of cups, food containers and bags that end up in the garbage, the city has been collecting ideas from residents and businesses on a strategy to deal with the problem.

"We can create a community and a plan that is accessible, affordable and comes up with creative options for convenience, but without the waste," said Kosmak.

Monica Kosmak, the City of Vancouver's senior project manager for zero waste, says residents who use disposable coffee cups should find a place to recycle them. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

City councillors have said part of the solution could include a ban on items such as styrofoam, which takes up a lot of space in the garbage stream and is not easy to recycle.

But officials admit any solution will have to consider potential harm to businesses, namely food providers, which rely on containers.

Another idea includes a refundable deposit on coffee cups.

The Broadway Street storefront opened on Saturday and will continue until Dec. 7. For hours click here.

Staff like Kosmak say the plan is to report a waste reduction strategy to council sometime in 2018.

The City of Vancouver has an action plan, which includes strategies to reduce the amount of solid waste that goes to landfills or incinerators by 50 per cent from 2008 levels.

In the meantime Kosmak says if residents must use disposable coffee cups they should:

  • Dispose of them by putting them in on-street recycling bins.
  • Take them back to stores which accept them.
  • Or bring them home to put in their blue box recycling bins.

With files from Nic Amaya.