The City of Vancouver has announced a few key bans on single use plastic items that are expected to make a significant impact to waste streams on the west coast.

Effective April 22, 2020, there will be a ban on plastic and compostable plastic straws with an accessibility requirement to provide bendable plastic straws wrapped in paper. A one-year exemption is provided for plastic straws served with bubble tea to allow time for the market to provide alternatives. Pending City Council approval, hospitals and community care facilities will be exempt from the ban.

In 2018, about 102 million straws were thrown in the garbage in Metro Vancouver. Plastic straws and stir sticks make up about three per cent of shoreline litter in Vancouver. Plastic straws can also fall through screens on recycling sorting lines that are designed to remove contaminants, so they can’t be recycled, and because of their size they have a significant potential to contaminate compost.

Effective January 1, 2021, ban on plastic and compostable plastic shopping bags, with fees on paper and reusable bags. Paper bags must contain at least 40 per cent recycled content. There will be minimum fees of $0.15 per paper bag, $1.00 per reusable bag. The minimum fees will increase January 1, 2022 to $0.25 per paper bag, $2 per reusable bag.

Approximately two million plastic shopping bags are disposed in the garbage in Vancouver each week (63 per cent are reused as garbage bags). Plastic bags make up three per cent of shoreline litter and two per cent of large litter items in Vancouver streets, parks, and public spaces. Plastic bags harm marine life and are made using non-renewable fossil fuels. Studies indicate it can take anywhere from 10 to 10,000 years for a plastic shopping bag to decompose.

Interestingly, paper bags can cause more harmful greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime than plastic bags because of manufacturing processes and they require more fuel because they are heavier to transport.

For further information on the bans, click here.

Featured image courtesy of Brian Yuratsis @brian_yuri and @wildlife_by_yuri

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