Vancouver’s Planned Paper Cup Ban is Unwise

Author : Kris Sims 13/03/2020

With the COVID-19 global pandemic making its rounds in Canada, it’s time for the City of Vancouver to reverse its planned ban on paper cups.

Along with the warnings to maintain a distance from others, to avoid large public gatherings and to constantly wash our hands to avoid infection, coffee shops across Canada have sent a strong message to their customers: leave your travel mugs at home.

Only the disposable paper cups with plastic lids are being used at places like Starbucks and Tim Hortons. Even the in-house ceramic mugs are being removed at cafes because health officials say it’s unwise to pass possibly infected objects back and forth in the middle of a virus outbreak.

That makes sense.

So, why is the City of Vancouver planning on banning all paper and single use cups in the near future? Once the paper cup ban is fully in place, the planners at Vancouver city hall want us to be sharing cups from the same communal pool.

We first got a good look at this plan back in November when the city announced a ban on plastic straws and new fees for reusable shopping bags, paper bags and disposable cups. The fee is 25 cents per cup and it starts in January 2021.

Vancouver city staff say businesses such as fast food restaurants and convenience stores currently using paper cups will be required to track how many cups they’ve sold and keep a running tally of the fees they have collected.

The city then plans to require the businesses to save up those accumulated fees from the paper cups and use the money to buy big dishwashers.

Why? Because the city is planning on eventually banning the paper cups and they expect the fast food locations and corner stores to all share cups for their customers and use the dishwashers for the common crockery collection.

Forcing this additional cost on Vancouver businesses to buy reusable cups and special dishwashers and making them find the extra square footage to house and store all of this will break the back of many mom-and-pop shops. Even the big chains that might be able to weather this additional red tape will end up pushing the costs on to their customers.

But what about food carts, food trucks and small hole-in-the-wall shops? If they can’t figure out how to wash and reuse every cup, they will have to shut down.

Further, it’s not yet known if coffee drinkers within city limits will need to pay a deposit on their temporarily borrowed cups, or how many we will be allowed to cart around on our commutes.

Instead of banning useful and hygienic paper cups completely, why don’t we encourage businesses to expand their discount and loyalty programs? Instead of removing the paper option, we get a discount with our own mugs, and if we forget them, we can pay for the paper cup.

That would leave the paper cups as a quickly accessible option to get us through the next major public health problem.

While the financial and regulatory problems caused by this plan would be hassle enough, when we consider the current COVID-19 pandemic we are grappling with, we should dismiss the notion that we should all be sharing a pool of communal coffee cups.

Paper cups do play a role and one of them is public health and hygiene.

Kris Sims is the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.