British Columbia

City of Vancouver looks to delay straw ban until 2020

City of Vancouver staff are recommending that council postpone the proposed goal of June 1 so more consultation can take place. 

Staff say they need more time to consult with businesses, persons with disabilities

Vancouver's city council voted to bring in a distribution ban on plastic straws by June of this year, but staff are now saying that timeline is too ambitious. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

A ban on the unnecessary use of plastic straws in Vancouver, originally set to come into effect by summer, may be delayed until next year.

The city originally set a goal of implementing the ban by June 1, 2019, but now staff are recommending council postpone the ban until April, 2020 so that more consultation can take place. 

The city said the delay would, in part, give businesses more time to adapt to the change.

"We've heard that more time is needed for making the transition," said Monica Kosmak, Vancouver's senior project manager for its zero waste program. 

"Our commitment to reducing single-use items is unwavering and we're just taking the time to  ... get the details of the bylaw right." 

Monica Kosmak pictured in April 2018. (Jake Costello/CBC)

In its report, set to be presented to council on Wednesday, staff said the recent municipal election delayed the consultation period and "left insufficient time to complete a fulsome consultation."

In addition, the report noted that the plastic straw ban posed a particular challenge to "small businesses and ethnocultural businesses [that] rely on single-use plastic straws to serve drinks such as bubble tea, smoothies and to-go drinks." 

"There aren't a lot of alternatives available for wider straws like bubble tea," said Kosmak, who said they would continue to work with businesses on finding alternatives.

Wider straws are used to serve bubble tea, a cold drink often served with tapioca “pearls” and other jellies slurped through a straw. (David Chang/EPA-EFE)

Staff also said they're working on bylaw amendments that would "require businesses to provide a bendable plastic straw when requested by a customer for accessibility." 

The city has learned through the consultation that a good option could see a general ban on plastic straws in place for food vendors that also requires them to keep a small stock of bendable plastic straws for those who need them, Kosmak said.

"Similar to accessible parking spots and ramps and railings, a bendable plastic straw, we're learning, is a very good tool for accessibility and very much needed,'' she said.

Staff are also recommending the ban on foam containers be postponed until January 2020, asking that charitable food providers be given an extra year to comply "to allow more time for affordable alternatives to become available."

The city launched its strategy to reduce the impact of plastic and paper shopping bags, disposable cups, takeout containers, plastic straws and single-use utensils in 2018 as part of its Zero Waste 2040 strategy.

It says another report this November will provide more details on the proposed bylaws, including strategies for phasing in the rollout, education, and addressing accessibility concerns.

With files from the Canadian Press