World / Science & Health

Vancouver becomes first Canadian city to ban plastic straws and bags

Reuters

Vancouver voted late on Wednesday to ban the use of plastic straws and bags from April next year, making it the first major Canadian city to enact such a wide-reaching ban, according to the city.

The move, aimed at cutting the use of plastic bags and certain other single-use plastic products, is part of a trend in many countries aimed at reducing plastic pollution.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June announced plans to ban by early 2021 some single-use plastics such as straws, bags and cutlery.

Montreal enacted a ban on certain types of plastic bags in 2018.

Vancouver said plastic bags and straws each make up 3 percent of shoreline litter on its beaches each year. Almost 90 percent of plastic products in Canada end up in landfills or the environment, according to a government-commissioned study from earlier this year.

Plastic straws will be banned as of April 22, 2020, while plastic bags — including those made of biodegradable material — will be banned on Jan. 1, 2021.

Businesses must be able to provide flexible straws upon request for customers who require them.

The bylaw “is not, in our view, good news for the environment or business,” said Greg Wilson, director of government relations in British Columbia at the Retail Council of Canada, an advocacy group representing retailers nationally.

He told Reuters it will increase the toll on the environment because instead of reusing plastic bags for pet or home waste, people will have to buy them, and reusable plastic bags often get thrown out and are harder to decompose because of their durability. He said it will increase costs for businesses.

Earlier this year, grocery chain Sobeys, owned by Empire Co. said it would eliminate all plastic bags from its stores within six months, becoming the first Canadian grocer to end use of plastic bags.

Once the bag ban is enacted, stores may charge 15 Canadian cents (11 U.S. cents) for paper bags in the first year, increasing to 25 cents after that. Disposable cups and utensils were not banned, but cups will carry a charge of 25 cents each as of January 2021.