British Columbia

Vancouver votes to scrap 25-cent fee for disposable cups

Vancouver's single-use drinking cup fee is headed for the trash, the same place 80 million or so of the disposable containers wind up every year.

Staff directed to draft bylaw amendment repealing the fee by June 1

The City of Vancouver has voted to end the 25-cent disposable cup fee restaurants are required to charge customers. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Vancouver's single-use drinking cup fee is headed for the trash, the same place 80 million or so of the disposable containers wind up every year.

Council has voted to end the 25-cent fee for disposable drinking cups, citing unclear environmental benefits, the availability of recycling options to deal with cups and the burden on businesses to administer the fee.

ABC Coun. Rebecca Bligh put forward the motion. Her fellow ABC councillors all voted in favour, except Mayor Ken Sim, who declared a conflict of interest because of his stake in the Rosemary Rocksalt bagel chain and Lisa Dominato, who was not present.

"This is about the 4,000 to 6,000 small businesses that are struggling to keep their doors open," Bligh said ahead of the vote.

"Who are being dealt a really terrible hand on many fronts, one of which is to rationalize why the City of Vancouver has imposed a 25-cent cup fee."

Vancouver City Councillor Rebecca Bligh, with A Better City, writes on paper at a council meeting.
ABC councillor Rebecca Bligh put forward the motion to end the fee. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The other three councillors voted against the repeal.

Coun. Christine Boyle said she didn't want to defend the fee but the city has few other tools to try and curb waste.

"Doing nothing is not a good alternative," Boyle said, highlighting that 82 million single-use cups were thrown out in Vancouver in 2018.

"This is something taxpayers are already paying for in waste. They're littering the streets, they're all over the place. so this is a problem we need to solve."

The motion also calls for staff to come up with other ways to reduce waste in the city and to co-ordinate with other governments to find "comprehensive regional, provincial, and national strategies and actions" to tackle the problem.

A city statement notes that a formal repeal requires staff to draft bylaw amendment language. Council's motion asks for a staff report on the amendment no later than June 1.

Coun. Christine Boyle said the city has limited tools to curb waste. She said considering how city staff had already looked at alternatives to the cup fee in the past, she was doubtful they would find one now. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Fee was controversial

The cup bylaw was passed by the previous city council as a way to prevent millions of disposable cups from entering Vancouver landfills each year. Businesses are compelled to charge a 25-cent fee for disposable cups.

The fees are collected by and stay with the businesses. Revenue from these fees is not remitted to the City as the city is not explicitly authorized to collect a sales tax.

The City encouraged food vendors to use the fees to invest in reusable alternatives for single-use items, and cover the cost of complying with the by-law, like software updates, and training staff.

At Wednesday's meeting, opponents of the fee, including representatives from restaurant and retail industry groups, said the fee was difficult to administer.

But those who supported the fee questioned abandoning it after just a year. They felt more time was needed for customers to change their behaviours around take-out cups and to start bringing reusable vessels.


Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.