British Columbia

One and done: Vancouver seeks public input on reducing single-use plastic bags, straws and coffee cups

If the City of Vancouver has its way, plastic bags and disposable take-out containers could soon be just a distant memory.

City hosting open house Tuesday night from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at 511 West Broadway to discuss options

Requiring all disposable cups to be either compostable or recyclable is one of the suggestions in Vancouver's recently released draft of its waste reduction strategy. (CBC)

If the City of Vancouver has its way, plastic bags and disposable take-out containers could soon be just a distant memory.

The municipality is holding an open house Tuesday night to share its Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy, part of a plan to reduce items such as plastic bags, straws and coffee cups.

Monica Kosmak, the senior project manager of Zero Waste Vancouver, says that single-use items make up a significant portion of the city's waste products.

"Half of the material that we see in public litter bins are cups and take-out containers," she told CBC's Jake Costello. "Take-out cups make up about a fifth of the litter we see on the streets and in parks in Vancouver."

Each week, more than two million plastic bags and two million disposable cups are thrown in the garbage in Vancouver.

Single-use items cost Vancouver taxpayers about $2.5 million per year to collect from public waste bins and to clean up as litter, the city estimates.

A draft of the city's waste reduction strategy was recently published.

It includes suggestions such as banning polystyrene foam cups and food containers, restricting vendors from handing out free disposable cups and shopping bags, and making straws optional rather than an automatic add-on.

Monica Kosmak is a senior project manager of Zero Waste Vancouver. (Jake Costello/CBC)

Reusable take-out boxes

Kosmak said another option the city is looking into is allowing customers to bring reusable containers to restaurants instead of using mandatory take-out boxes. 

"Currently, the health code doesn't allow it, because the containers need to be sanitized before the food is put in there," Kosmak said. "We are working with Vancouver Coastal Health to pilot a program that would allow restaurants to fill containers brought in by customers."

Riley Bajwa, who regularly carries a reusable plastic cup with him, said he would like to see more efforts to reuse and recycle in the city. 

"Paper cups are in general one of those things that are massively produced, so if anyone can cut down on that, that's a huge amount of paper," he said. "If for take-out, you could bring your own container, that would be great."

Zory Vhman, the owner of the coffee shop, Charlotte Dessert Shop, in City Centre mall, said she supports the idea of customers bringing in reusable take-out containers.

She said she tries to avoid Styrofoam and only uses it when customers ask for a cup of tap water.

"Less junk for food is much better," Vhman said.

The open house on Vancouver's Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy is Tuesday night, April 10 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 511 West Broadway.

With files from Jake Costello and The Early Edition.