Vancouver city council votes to get rid of single use cup fee

Vancouver city council has voted to repeal the 25-cent single use cup fee.

The fee was first put in place last year by the previous council to help promote the use of reusable cups, sparking a continual debate on whether or not it has actually helped reduce unnecessary waste.

Councillor Rebecca Bligh brought forward the original motion.

“We heard resounding feedback from businesses and residents that this fee was ineffective,” said Bligh. “With affordability at top of mind for many across Vancouver, repealing the cup fee was the right thing to do.”

In a meeting Wednesday, council voted to get rid of the controversial fee. Early in the meeting, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim recused himself, declaring a conflict of interest. Councillor Adriane Carr took over as acting mayor.

According to Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, the fee will be gone by Jun. 1, 2023. Kirby-Yung thanked Councillor Rebecca Bligh and the ABC team in a tweet for making it all happen.

“Common sense prevails. We need to work on Provincial & Federal policies and solutions to reduce single use waste,” she said.

Ian Tostenson, President and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told CityNews Wednesday that he doesn’t think the idea has been effective.

“The whole deal here was to reduce the number of cups in the system and it’s not doing that. People are just paying 25 cents,” Tostenson pointed out. “It has been a complete waste of time, because at a time when we’re feeling the effects of the pandemic, we’ve got a massive labour shortage, it was a bit tone-deaf for the city to bring in a 25-cent fee at a time when business owners were scrambling.”

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Tostenson felt more people need to be educated about how to reduce waste, whereas Cody Irwin, founder and CEO of reusable supply company ShareWares, believed we’re past that, and said action is needed to help protect the environment.

“It’s heartbreaking for so many in the industry. We don’t have any other levers to use to start driving sustainability. Education isn’t enough. Nobody wants to listen to the government tap on a sign, saying, ‘Public service announcement, use less this.’ Nobody listens to that.”

However, some who spoke against the motion said the City didn’t do an effective job in educating the public about the cup fee.

“The fee is rung up without it being pointed out to people that they are being charged the additional fee. So, a lot of people…they just pay it with very little awareness. It’s not being brought to their attention,” said Neelam Chadha, lead organizer of the activist group Fridays for Future Vancouver.

“It may do more to discourage people if there’s more awareness-raising to draw their attention that they are being charged this fee that could be saved if they brought their own cup. So, it’s best to make it clear which would be much more effective.”

The minimum 25-cent charge was in place for each disposable cup, except on free drinks. It required businesses to accept “customers’ clean reusable cups for drinks ordered in-store,” the City of Vancouver website reads.

With files from John Ackermann

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