Plastic straws

COVID-19 update: outreach and enforcement

October 22, 2020: Outreach and education will restart soon to help businesses, organizations, and non-profits comply with single-use item by-laws.

​​​​​​​Due to COVID-19, we're using discretion on when and where to enforce the single-use item by-laws:

  • Businesses are expected to comply or begin working to comply with the by-laws as soon as it is possible for them
  • Charitable food services may continue to distribute single-use items with food or meals during COVID-19, but are expected to begin working towards complying with the by-laws as soon as it is possible for them

Our priority continues to be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring essential services continue uninterrupted.


Federal regulation of single-use items

The federal government is proposing to regulate single-use items .

We will continue to advocate for federal regulations that meet the highest standards and align with our by-laws.

If the federal government proceeds with its regulations, City Council may consider how these regulations affect its by-laws and change them. Until then, Vancouver business license holders are required to comply with the City’s single-use item by-laws.

Effective Apr 22, 2020:

  • Flexible plastic straws individually wrapped in paper must be stocked and provided to customers upon request (accessibility requirement)
  • Ban on other plastic straws, including plastic labeled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from plants
    • 1-year exemption available for bubble tea drinks (registration required)

Sign up for updates on the by-law at the bottom of this page.

Get information on:

About the by-law

Accessibility requirement: flexible plastic straws individually wrapped in paper

photo of flexible plastic straws individually wrapped in paperAll food vendors are required to stock flexible plastic straws individually wrapped in paper and provide them on request.

Flexible plastic straws meet the widest range of accessibility needs [review comparison table (286 KB)] and ensure that customers who are unable to drink without a straw, or have difficulty drinking, can safely consume beverages and nutrition. 

The accessibility requirement within the plastic straw by-law sets the highest standard for accessibility among plastic straw bans and prioritizes inclusion for all people in Vancouver’s diverse communities. 

Flexible plastic straw specifications

  • Plastic (made from fossil fuel products such as polypropylene)
  • Must have a flexible section near the top that allows the straw to bend and stay in place
  • Suggested minimum length of 19.5 cm when the straw isn’t stretched, and approximately 0.5 cm in diameter
  • Individually wrapped in paper

Flexible plastic straws cannot be made from plastic that is labeled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from plants or other biological materials. These plastics may dissolve in hot liquids or cause allergic reactions, and do not meet the accessibility requirement.

Purchasing flexible plastic straws

A list of suppliers that stock flexible plastic straws individually wrapped in paper is available. 

Review a list of suppliers (43 KB)

 Menu icon

Add this icon to your menus to show customers that you are in compliance with the plastic straw by-law and that flexible plastic straws are available for customers who need them. 

Download the menu icon (2 MB)

About the menu icon

  • The menu icon was developed in consultation with the City of Vancouver's Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
  • The wheelchair symbol is the International Symbol of Access. The menu icon uses this symbol for the following reasons:
    • The symbol is widely understood by the general public
    • The symbol helps to reinforce that flexible plastic straws should be provided to people for accessibility needs 
    • For non-disabled customers, the symbol reinforces that flexible plastic straws are not for their convenience, but are available for people who need them to safely consume beverages and nutrition
  • The menu icon is not intended to imply that flexible plastic straws are only for people in wheelchairs. The City acknowledges that people with visible and invisible disabilities or medical conditions may need flexible plastic straws to safely consume beverages and nutrition.

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