Victoria council has rejected a proposal to charge customers a fee for single-use coffee cups and takeout containers as the city warns of mounting single-use items entering the natural environment and leading to costs.
The proposed 25-cent fee would’ve applied to every cup purchased and on every takeout order that used one or more single-use containers. The fees would’ve come into force following the implementation of other measures council supported on Thursday (March 9).
Those approved measures, recommended by staff, include the city crafting a bylaw that would make single-use straws, utensils, stir sticks and condiment packages available only upon request. It will also require that only reusable products are used for in-person dining whenever food or drinks are served, with exceptions for businesses that can’t accommodate dishwashing.
Those policies would begin three and nine months, respectively, after a bylaw is adopted and both will need provincial approval. Councillors said the reusable requirement for in-person dining would represent a huge waste-reduction shift for businesses like fast food restaurants.
Victoria residents dispose of more than 75,000 single-use items every day – with cups and containers being the most prolific – and that figure climbs to 220,000 when waste from businesses and institutions is taken into account. The city says single-use items are a major source of plastic pollution, with detrimental effects on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
“The overuse of single-use items also has direct impacts and costs to municipal sanitation services and compromises existing recycling and composting programs,” a city report said.
Council last year directed staff to bring a bylaw forward that would protect the natural environment by reducing single-use items and encouraging reusable products through the three policies presented on Thursday.
In dropping the cup and container fee proposal, councillors suggested no alternatives as they passed Coun. Jeremy Caradonna’s motion – which called for staff to come back with “bold options” around rapidly shifting to reuse and recycling for take cups and containers.
Councillors said the charge would be too small, especially on larger takeout orders, to change behaviour. They also claimed it didn’t make a difference when implemented in Vancouver and the revenue just goes back to companies while putting more financial pressure on consumers.
Vancouver scrapped its cup fee last month despite criticism the vote came before data on the program’s first year was presented.
Rory Tooke, the city’s manager of sustainability, said Victoria’s consultations found some residents did say a 25-cent fee would motivate them to bring a reusable cup, while about half said it would need to be closer to 50 cents or $1 for containers. Businesses generally said they could accept a 25-cent fee, he added.
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