Vancouver mayor vows to axe controversial single-use cup fee by summer

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says the city’s controversial single-use cup fee will be gone by this summer.

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Sim made the comments during his first ‘state of the city’ address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Tuesday.

“Everyone here in Vancouver loves the environment but we can make a distinction between things that are pragmatic and not,” Sim said.

“What we’ve heard from the business community and residents is the cup fee just ain’t working, that it’s punitive. So that’s why we’re committed to getting rid of the cup fee by this summer.”

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Sim’s ABC Vancouver party holds a majority on council, ensuring it should have little trouble repealing the fee.

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver stays the course on single use cup fee'

Vancouver implemented the changes to its Licence Bylaw on Jan. 1, 2022 which banned the use of plastic shopping bags and required businesses to charge a 25 cent fee for disposable cups and 15 cents for paper bags.

Because the city does not have the power to implement sales taxes, money from the fees goes to the business, not the government. Businesses were encouraged to use the money to switch to reusable alternatives to single-use items.

The fees immediately proved controversial, with some critics arguing they amounted to a windfall for large chain businesses, and others saying the fees discriminated against low-income and homeless people.

Click to play video: 'Is the City of Vancouver’s single-use cup fee a cash grab?'

Council later moved to exempt free drinks and meals or those purchased with a voucher from the fee to address some of those concerns.

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It was not immediately clear if Sim’s plan extended to the bylaw’s bag fee provisions. The federal government rolled out its own ban on plastic grocery bags last month.

Sim maintained his ABC would also listen to other perspectives on the issue.

“We’re not going to stretch it out two, four years and write a report about it. We’re going to file a motion, we’re going to debate it,” he said.

“We’ll have a very open mind. If someone can convince us why it makes sense to still have the cup tax there, we’re all ears. But if people can’t provide that argument and why it is truly a benefit to the environment, we’re going to get rid of it.”

According to the city, people in Vancouver threw out more than 82 million single-use cups and 89 million plastic bags in 2018 alone.

The city estimates the cost to collect and dispose of those items runs at about $2.5 million per year, and says many end up in the landfill.

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