Vancouver approves restrictions on shopping bags, plastic straws, cups and utensils

Vancouver approves restrictions on shopping bags, plastic straws, cups and utensils

On November 27, Vancouver City Council approved crucial new by-laws targeting waste and litter from single-use items such as plastic shopping bags, disposable cups, utensils and plastic straws in Vancouver.

The approved by-laws are designed to reduce single-use items made from all types of materials, not just plastic, support lasting behaviour change, and ultimately value all members of Vancouver’s diverse communities – regardless of physical ability.

A First in Canada
Vancouver becomes the first Canadian city to ban foam cups and containers, charge fees on disposable cups, restrict utensils to by-request only and provide protection for people with disabilities to access bendable plastic straws when needed. The Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy includes the widest range of municipal actions to reduce single-use items like shopping bags, disposable cups, foam cups and foam take-out containers, plastic straws and single-use utensils nationwide.

The details of the upcoming by-laws are as follows:

January 1, 2020

  • Ban on foam cups and foam take-out containers (approved by Council April 29, 2019). Toolkits are available to help businesses and charities prepare for the ban on our website,

April 22, 2020

  • Ban on plastic and compostable plastic straws with an accessibility requirement to provide bendable plastic straws wrapped in paper. Food vendors must provide accessible straws (bendable plastic straws wrapped in paper) and provide them to customers, without question, upon request. A one-year exemption is provided for plastic straws served with bubble tea to allow time for the market to provide alternatives.
  • By-request requirement for single-use utensils. All single-use utensils can only be given out by request.

January 1, 2021

  • Ban on plastic and compostable plastic shopping bags, with fees on paper and reusable bag. Paper bags must contain at least 40% recycled content. Minimum fees of $0.15 per paper bag, $1.00 per reusable bag. Minimum fees increase Jan. 1, 2022 to $0.25 per paper bag, $2.00 per reusable bag.
  • $0.25 minimum fee on all disposable cups. Creates incentives for in-store drinks to be served in reusable cups, for customers to bring their own travel mugs, and for industry to develop mug share programs. Businesses can keep the fees to invest in reusable alternatives.

Accessibility Requirements

The plastic straw by-law includes an accessibility requirement that supports the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities to access bendable plastic straws, wrapped in paper, when needed for accessibility. Food vendors will be required to stock these straws and provide them to customers, without question, upon request.

This requirement was supported by a formal resolution from the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and Senior’s Advisory Committee to the City of Vancouver.

Next Steps:

1) Toolkits Coming Soon

In the coming months, as businesses take action to reduce waste and comply with the by-laws, translated toolkits will be available online and print copies by-request to help businesses with the transition and communicate the changes to their customers.

A public awareness campaign will launch in advance of the by-laws to encourage behaviour change in residents, tourists, businesses and their staff.

2) Seeking Provincial Action

Council also approved writing to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to request that the Province:

  •  Develop standards for the use of compostable, biodegradable, oxodegradable and photodegradable plastics,
  •  Align standards for certified compostable plastics and compost facilities in British Columbia; and
  •  Require Extended Producer Responsibility for all compostable packaging wastes generated by residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, as well as the public realm.

3) Eliminating Single-Use Items in Civic Facilities

Council recognizes the importance of leading by example, and City staff will report back on a policy to eliminate single-use items in civic facilities and events.

Source: City of Vancouver