Vancouver will become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic drinking straws, as it reduces its reliance on disposable single-use items that end up in landfills or incinerators.
The straw ban, which takes effect in the fall of next year, is part of a suite of waste-reducing policies adopted this week that also includes a ban on the distribution of polystyrene foam cups and containers, as well as restrictions on disposable cups and plastic shopping bags. According to the policy passed unanimously at city council on Wednesday, the city aims to completely eliminate the disposal of solid waste by 2040.
“It’s a coastal city, with the plastic items having a significant impact on the environment, we feel it’s important to take action,” City of Vancouver director of waste management and resource recovery Albert Shamess told The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Shamess said people will still be able to buy single-use straws from retail outlets for their homes, as the ban is intended to target food-service facilities.
Vancouver is the latest city in Canada to target plastic waste. Other jurisdictions across the country have placed bans or restrictions on plastic shopping bags.
The city’s ban on plastic drinking straws, foam cups and foam take-out containers will apply to restaurants and vendors with city business licences. The city is still working out details for enforcement and is considering a recommendation to punish offenders with a $250 ticket through complaints and spot-checks.
Ian Tostenson, the president of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said that while it will be an adjustment, the environmental benefits outweigh any potential financial problems that will come from phasing out single-use straws and other containers.
“Restaurants will make the adjustment and supply chains will make the adjustment,” he said. “Change like this can be costly and can be inconvenient, but if we keep this bigger picture in mind, especially in terms of the environment, it’s a no-brainer.”
According to the City of Vancouver, approximately 57 million straws are used in Canada every day and 2.6 million disposable cups are thrown away in Vancouver every week.
The waste-reduction policies prompted concerns from seniors and disability advocates, who said people with reduced mobility and oral health-care needs depend on straws. The city has said it will continue to work with representatives from the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, the Seniors’ Advisory Committee and social-service providers in the Downtown Eastside to find ways to accommodate those groups.
Bubble-tea retailers, who serve drinks with oversized straws to accommodate pieces of tapioca and jelly, also said the ban could hurt their business. The city said it would take those concerns into account.
The anti-plastic movement is gaining momentum worldwide. Over the past year, many Vancouver restaurants have independently eliminated single-use straws or only provided them to customers on request. Deep Cove − a small community on the Vancouver region’s north shore − moved earlier this month to eliminate plastic straws. And many other cities across Canada are introducing their own plastic-reduction plans, including Victoria’s ban on single-use plastic bags, which will go into effect next month.
In February, city council in Malibu, Calif., voted to ban retailers from selling plastic straws and utensils to customers effective June 1. Scotland and Taiwan both have plans to nationally ban single-use straws. In April, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her country will work to ban single-use straws and cotton swabs in an attempt to nationally ban plastic waste by 2042. She urged other Commonwealth countries − including Canada − to do the same.