Today, Vancouver became the first city in the world to approve a comprehensive zero waste strategic plan, with an early action strategy that targets reduction of single-use bags, cups, take-out containers, utensils and straws. With that, it also became the first in Canada to prohibit plastic straws and polystyrene foam cups and take-out containers.
After hearing from more than 20 speakers, Council voted to approve a flexible bylaw that will see the City work closely with small businesses to achieve a targeted reduction in the use of plastic bags and cups. If target reduction rates are not achieved by 2021, the City of Vancouver will take further action by enacting a full ban on single-use plastic bags and cups.
Staff and Council are committed to working with small businesses to ensure that these policies are not only successful in reducing waste but also in maintaining or enhancing local businesses.
Additionally, Council voted to bring in a distribution ban on straws and polystyrene on June 1, 2019— six months earlier than initially proposed— and to provide additional funding for outreach and education to support small businesses as they transition to using more sustainable packaging materials.
“Today’s approval of the Zero Waste 2040 Strategy is a big step forward to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city and a global leader on zero waste,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Cities around the world recognize the detrimental impacts of plastic waste on our environment and are taking bold steps to cut down or eliminate waste through bans and innovative reusable programs. In Vancouver, we’re hearing strong support from local businesses, environmental groups and the general public and I’m confident that this comprehensive strategy will help us become a clean, zero-waste city."
Reducing single-use items will include ban of straws and polystyrene foam cups and take-out containers
Every week, 2.6 million plastic-lined paper cups and 2 million plastic bags are thrown in the garbage in Vancouver. Cups and take-out containers make up about 50 per cent of all items collected in public waste bins and plastic straws and stir sticks make up about 2 per cent of shoreline litter in Vancouver. Despite their convenience, it costs Vancouver taxpayers $2.5 million a year to collect these items from public waste bins and to clean up as litter.
Highlights from the Zero Waste 2040 strategy include:
· Introduce a ban on the distribution of polystyrene foam cups and containers and plastic straws starting June 1st, 2019.
· Introduce reduction plans for disposable cups and plastic/paper shopping bags. These plans will allow businesses to choose one of the below options:
o No distribution of disposable cups or plastic/paper shopping bags
o Disposable cups or plastic/paper shopping bags cannot be distributed for free
o Other mechanisms that will be proposed and finalized through consultation
o If the reduction plans do not lead to the City reaching the target reduction rate by 2021, City Council will enact a full distribution ban on single-use bags and cups
Require disposable utensils to be given out only if customers ask for them, rather than receiving them automatically.
Issue an RFEOI for a “Made in Vancouver” single-use item solutions such as a city mug share program and reusable straws.
All compostable packaging (e.g., bags, cups, and containers) distributed by businesses must be approved compostable, which means that it has been tested and approved at a local compost facility.
Explore options to recover the costs of collecting disposable cups in public waste bins and as litter from the businesses that generate this waste.
The adopted Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy is the result of extensive consultation with residents and businesses to create a made-in-Vancouver strategy for reducing the use of single–use items. In the last round of consultation, the City heard strongly that in addition to bold actions to ban foam cups and containers and reduce use of plastic and paper bags and disposable cups, that a full ban of plastic straws should also be added to the strategy with some exceptions for health care needs.
Green Demolition by-law expanded to include pre-1950s homes
Today, the City approved an expansion of the existing green demolition requirements from pre-1940 homes to also include pre-1950 homes. Pre-1940 homes represent roughly 40 per cent of residential demolitions in Vancouver; the shift to pre-1950 homes will capture 70 per cent. The proposed amendments will also require deconstruction for pre-1910 homes and heritage-listed homes built before 1950.
Since its adoption in June 2014, the Green Demolition By-law has diverted nearly 40,000 tonnes, or roughly 10,000 tonnes per year, of demolition waste from the landfill and incinerator. The average diversion rate for pre-1940 homes has been 86 per cent, which is significantly higher than the typical rate of 40-50 per cent for traditional residential demolitions.
To date, most of the materials that have been diverted have been recycled rather than reused. Recycling is not necessarily the best use for all materials, particularly from historic homes. To address this challenge and support deconstruction efforts, the City also approved funding to support the creation of an independently operated Deconstruction Hub, which will help advance the local market for restoring, upcycling and selling salvaged materials, including architectural details and salvaged old-growth wood.
The Green Demolition By-Law supports the Heritage Action Plan and Zero Waste 2040 and the Renewable City Action Plan, and aims to encourage preservation and renewal of character homes, increase reuse of demolition materials, and generally reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste disposed to landfill and incinerator.
The proposed by-law amendments will be effective January 1, 2019.