British Columbia | Sustainability

For members with stores in Vancouver: Vancouver Council adopts Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy

Vancouver City council amended City staff’s thoughtful and well-informed single-use item reduction strategy in ways that RCC is concerned will have consequence (below). Given the short time-frame and the precedent setting nature of these changes, RCC strongly encourage members to consider the impact of the changes and communicate both concerns and suggestions to RCC.

Members will be aware RCC has spent a significant amount of time and effort working with Vancouver City staff and members to achieve the best solution possible. The council resolutions haven’t yet formally passed – we expect them to pass unanimously at the June 5 council meeting.

  1. The implementation date for the proposed ban on polystyrene cups and takeout packaging and a newly proposed ban on plastic straws would be effective June 1, 2019 instead of the date recommended by staff (November 1, 2019). RCC’s preference had been for a 21 to 24-month implementation window to provide time for the development and sourcing of alternatives.
  2. New requirements that:
    a. cups and take-out containers be compostable or reusable (rather than recyclable), and
    b. “all compostable single-use items” (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.RCC is concerned that the singular focus on compostability will add complexity to sourcing cups and take-out packaging. City staff acknowledge that “testing and approval” will likely need to be through a national organization such as the Compost Council of Canada. Council did not specify an implementation date for these requirements. RCC also has concerns about the financial impact to participants in the packaging and paper product category EPR program resulting from a move to compostable products.
  3. The City continues to advocate that the Province includes industrial, commercial and institutional consumers in extended producer responsibility for the packaging and paper product category. RCC’s concern is that this would significantly drive up operational costs for retail – and unnecessarily penalizes those businesses who are already appropriately disposing of materials in an effort to gain compliance from those who don’t.
  4. All paper-based single-use items must have at least 40% post-consumer content. Council did not include a target date for this requirement. RCC’s concern is that it will be difficult and costly to identify and source significant volumes of compliant items.
  5. Explore options to recover the costs of collecting disposable cups in public waste bins and as litter from the businesses that generate this waste. RCC notes that the Recycling Regulation already requires Recycle BC to provide for the collection of packaging and paper product category materials (including most disposable cups) from municipal property. RCC’s concern is both about the significant cost, as well as penalizing those businesses who are more appropriately managing their materials.
  6. Create, by December 31, 2018, annual targets for reduction of each single-use item (which if not met by 2021 would result in bans for those items). RCC’s principal concern is that there is inadequate data regarding current distribution of single-use items – as well as the increased costs and operational complexity of reporting on distribution of single-use items (particularly category-specific reporting).

The update (above) only concerns changes to the strategy. Previous RCC member updates provide more information, or, members are encouraged to contact Greg Wilson (gwilson@retailcouncil.org or +1 (604) 736-0368).

Background:

The City of Vancouver has been working on a Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy for two years and has consulted widely with businesses in 2016 and 2017. In September 2017, the City met with RCC members in Montreal. RCC wrote submissions in response to all drafts of the single-use item strategy. RCC spoke, and answered questions, at Council when the strategy was considered.

Next Steps:

  1. With our partners at Recycle BC, we have developed a resource guide for single-use shopping bag reduction. It can be found here.
  2. City staff have indicated a willingness to engage with stakeholders on the implementation of the revised strategy. RCC will participate and involve members where appropriate.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at 604-736-0368 or gwilson@retailcouncil.org

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