With 13,000 single-use cups going into Victoria garbage cans every day, a 25-cent fee is being floated in the city.
Victoria will start crafting a bylaw aiming to protect the natural environment from what the city calls problematic single-use plastics.
It’s recommended that the bylaw require businesses to charge a 25-cent fee if a customer wants a single-use takeout cup. Such a policy would include exemptions for free drinks and drink vouchers, hospitals and community care facilities and charitable food services.
Councillors passed an amendment, at the Thursday committee meeting, to have the city work with partners to provide free reusable cups and water bottles for unhoused and other low-income residents and reusable or non-plastic disposable straws for people living with disabilities.
The city throws away 75,000 single-use items every day. A city report states this overuse results in “a wasteful and unsustainable activity that directly affects municipal services, compromises provincial and regional recycling and composting programs and degrades and harms terrestrial and marine environments.”
Rory Tooke, manager of sustainability, said Thursday that the global body of knowledge shows fees have resulted in people changing their behaviour. Discounts for those who choose more sustainable options have not resulted in the same level of behaviour change, he added.
Beyond the possible cup fee, it’s recommended the yet-to-be-made bylaw allows businesses to only give out things like single-use straws, utensils and stir sticks upon customer request, and that only reusable products be used for on-site dining – with exemptions for small businesses like food trucks that lack cleaning equipment. Not putting an outright ban on straws looks to accommodate those who need them for medical reasons.
A stark majority (95 per cent) of the almost 600 residents who responded to a city survey support reducing waste by only getting items upon request. A third said a fee would encourage them to use a reusable container, while almost 70 per cent wanted the fee for the plastic-lined cups to cost half a loonie.
The city was informed by studies that found reusable alternatives outperform disposable items when looking at their overall environmental impacts – including waste, energy use, emissions, water pollution and resource extraction.
The three recommended strategies would fill current gaps in federal and provincial legislation.
The overuse of single-use plastics is causing 29,000 tonnes of single-use plastics to escape collection and enter the environment in Canada every year, staff’s report said. A recent federal assessment on plastic pollution found: wildlife is being suffocated, strangled and smothered by the waste; tossed plastics are allowing invasive species and diseases to be introduced into ecosystems; and single-use items are compromising habitat integrity.
Another amendment councillors approved will have staff report back in a year on the feasibility of requiring businesses to participate in reusable cup and container programs.
Two local non-profits have also expressed concern over impacts on low-income people despite the exemptions and have requested the city work with local organizations to craft the bylaw. Engagement with local groups and businesses has been ongoing for three years, Tooke said, adding that even more will be done to iron out technical details with stakeholders.
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