Staff at the City of Victoria have put forward a report to the committee of the whole with recommendations on steps to reduce single-use waste.
The report recommends that the council draft a bylaw to require businesses to only supply single-use straws, utensils, stir sticks, and condiment packages when requested, use reusable containers when food is consumed on site, and charge a 25 cent fee for every single-use takeout cup or container.
Additionally, the report recommends council direct staff to monitor the impact of the fee for cups and containers and report back if adjustments are needed, report back with recommendations for bans on single-use items if the federal ban deviates significantly from the current draft, and develop a communication plan to support the transition.
“Every day, Victoria residents throw away over 75,000 single-use items,” the report says. “The overuse of single-use items throughout the community is a wasteful and unsustainable activity that directly affects municipal services, compromises provincial and regional recycling and composting programs, and degrades and harms terrestrial and marine environments.”
According to the report, the city collects over 5 million single-use items per year in its curbside waste collection and 9 million items from public garbage cans.
“The most common single-use items found in public garbage are cups (13,000 per day), containers (6,300 per day), and straws (5,800 per day),” the report says. “Single-use products are also common litter found in City parks and beaches.”
This report is following on the city’s Zero Waste Victoria program, which aims to reduce waste by 50 per cent by 2040.
The report says there are four common methods to reducing single-use items: provide by request, require reusable, mandatory fees, and a ban.
By request, according to the report, increases awareness as customers would have to request a single-use item, and also maintains products for disabled people if needed.
Requiring reusable is effective in certain situations, according to the report, like restaurants with a dine-in option.
A mandatory fee presents a cost to the customer which may incentivize a behaviour change and bans completely restrict the ability to acquire the product.
As part of the engagement process in developing a plan to reduce single-use items, the report notes that 64 disabled people participated.
Concerns raised by the disabled people included that policy may introduce additional barriers, if fees are implemented the city should explore support for low-income people, and they wished that plastic bags be allowed under a by request policy.
Andrew Jenks and Kelsey Obringer with the University of Delaware wrote a commentary article looking at the additional barriers that disabled people face when bans are implemented, and raised concerns about measures that state options will be made available for disabled people.
“These nods to ‘medical or physical conditions’ pay only lip service to disabled people’s needs, waving over the serious implications that plastic alternatives pose for disabled people or the repercussions of being forced to disclose a disability or medical condition when asking for a plastic straw,” Jenks and Obringer said in the 2019 commentary. “Bans on single-use plastics, like straws, are thus ableist both in their de facto exclusion of disabled people in policy drafting, and in their uncritical and hasty application.”
The report presents three options to council.
The first is to do nothing, and wait for the provincial and federal bans to come into effect.
The second is to ban single-use plastic items in the city, which is not recommended since the report provincial and federal bans will be coming into effect in the coming months.
And the third option, which is the recommended option, is to draft a bylaw that requires regular use of reusable products and seek ministerial approval.
The report will be presented at the COTW meeting for consideration on April 21.