Educational toolkits are available for businesses, charities, and not-for-profits to inform staff and customers of the by-law requirements.
Single-use by-laws in effect
What you need to know
Shopping bags: There is a ban on plastic and compostable plastic shopping bags and minimum fees on paper and new reusable bags. The minimum fees increase to $0.25 for paper bags and $2 for new reusable bags on Jan 1, 2023.
Cups: There is a minimum $0.25 fee for each disposable cup, except for free drinks. Businesses must accept customers’ clean reusable cups for drinks ordered in-store.
Utensils: Customers must ask for single-use utensils if they want them.
Straws: Plastic and compostable plastic straws are banned. Accessible straws (flexible plastic straws, individually wrapped in paper) must be provided upon request to people who need them to drink or eat.
Foam cups and foam take-out containers are banned.
What you can do
Bring your own reusable bag and cup to avoid the fees and help reduce waste. If you forget your cup for drinks to go, borrow one where businesses offer this option. If you have your drink to stay, ask for a reusable cup.
Ask for disposable utensils and straws only if you need them.
Reducing single-use waste during COVID
Reducing plastic waste and pollution, even during the pandemic, is important and possible. We have ensured these by-laws align with the latest public health guidelines to protect the health and safety of residents, businesses, and their staff.
For more details on all the single-use item by-laws, see below.
The ban on plastic shopping bags includes plastic made from fossil fuel products, and plastic that is labeled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from plants or other biological materials.
Minimum fees for paper shopping bags
Businesses are required to charge a $0.15 fee (minimum) per paper shopping bag in 2022.
In 2023, the minimum fee per paper shopping bags increases to $0.25.
Businesses keep the fees from paper shopping bags, this revenue is not remitted to the City.
Paper shopping bags must contain at least 40% recycled content.
Minimum fees for new reusable shopping bags
Businesses are required to charge a $1.00 fee (minimum) per reusable shopping bag in 2022.
In 2023, the minimum fee per reusable shopping bag increases to $2.00.
Businesses keep the fees from reusable bags, this revenue is not remitted to the City.
Reusable shopping bags must be designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses and be primarily made of fabric.
Avoid the fees and reduce waste: Bring Your Own Bag when you shop.
Who keeps the fees and how are they used
As in other BC municipalities that require fees on paper and new reusable bags, businesses keep the fees. Revenue from the bag fees is not remitted to the City. The City of Vancouver is not explicitly authorized to collect a sales tax.
We encourage businesses to use the fees to:
Invest in reusable alternatives, such as a take-a-bag, leave-a-bag program
Fund the donation of reusable bags to charitable food services and other not-for-profits that offer programs like grocery hampers and clothing rooms to residents disproportionately affected by income inequality
Instead of using plastic shopping bags for garbage bin liners, we encourage you to reuse other soft plastic packaging from food and products you buy regularly, such as toilet paper overwrap, large plastic pouches, pet food bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, and so on.
As of July 1, businesses will be required to accept customers’ clean reusable cups for drinks ordered in-store.
Food vendors can refuse cups that are:
Not food safe (for example dirty or damaged cups)
Too small for the drink the customer has ordered
Not safe for hot drinks (for example uninsulated glass jar)
The requirement to accept a customers’ reusable cup will also not apply to:
Drinks served in a reusable cup - When a drink is already served in a reusable cup supplied by the business (for example at a dine-in restaurant), the business is not required to accept a customers’ reusable cup for that drink
Alcoholic drinks - Liquor licensees are responsible to ensure patrons do not take liquor outside their alcohol service area
Events with bag checks - Events where every patron is checked to prevent anyone from bringing in objects that could be used as projectiles
Drive-thrus - Food vendors are not required to accept reusable cups at drive-thrus
Information icon The cup fee and other cup regulations still apply when reusable cups can't be accepted.
As of March 29, 2022, businesses can provide the following free drinks in single-use cups to customers without charging a cup fee.
Drinks provided at no cost to the customer, such as free water or complimentary coffee
Drinks provided in exchange for a “drink voucher” (voucher specifies that it’s good for a free drink, or free drink and free meal)
Drinks provided in exchange for points or rewards earned using a licence holder’s loyalty or rewards program
Information icon Drinks purchased with a monetary voucher, gift card, or subscription service are not exempt from the cup fee. This exemption also does not include drinks ordered with meal combos or buy-one-get-one offers.
Businesses, charities, and not-for-profits are expected to comply with:
Businesses, charities, and not-for-profits are required to stock flexible plastic straws, individually wrapped in paper, to ensure that customers who are unable to drink without a straw, or have difficulty drinking, can safely consume beverages and nutrition.
Anyone who asks for a flexible plastic straw should receive one. People are not required, and should not be asked, to provide any medical information to prove their need.
Flexible plastic straws must be stored behind a counter to save them for people who need them.
Ban on all other plastic straws, including:
Plastic made from fossil fuel products
Plastic that is labeled or described as compostable, degradable
Plastic that is labeled or described as made from plants or other biological materials (example: corn, potatoes, sugarcane)
During COVID-19, charitable food services may continue to distribute single-use items with food or meals, but are expected to begin working towards complying with the by-laws as soon as it is possible for them.
Flexible plastic straws are for people who need them. If you do not need a flexible plastic straw, please don’t ask for or use one.
The plastic straw by-law requires that all licensed food vendors stock flexible plastic straws, individually wrapped in paper, to ensure that customers who are unable to drink without a straw, or have difficulty drinking, can safely consume beverages and nutrition. People experiencing age-related physical restrictions, arthritis, auto-immune disease, autism, cerebral palsy, dental and oral conditions, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, neurological disease, spinal cord injuries, stroke recovery and rehabilitation, surgery recovery, and other illnesses and injuries, may rely on flexible plastic straws.
This requirement sets the highest standard for accessibility and prioritizes inclusion for all people in Vancouver’s diverse communities.
Flexible plastic straws, individually wrapped in paper, meet the widest range of peoples accessibility needs.
The flexible plastic straw menu icon was created for businesses to show customers that they are in compliance with the plastic straw by-law and that flexible plastic straws are available for customers who need them.
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. We acknowledge that people with visible and invisible disabilities or medical conditions may need flexible plastic straws to safely consume beverages and nutrition.
We encourage local businesses to download and use the menu icon.
We encourage residents to adopt new practices like:
Switching to reusable straws
Where single-use straws are necessary, choosing materials that can be composted in the green bin
Checkmark Our Green Bin program accepts straws made from
Paper straws that are not lined with any type of plastic
Pasta straws (however, may be an allergen)
Rice and tapioca straws (however, may be an allergen)
Straws made of grain stalks like hay and rye
Straws made from pressed leaves
Bamboo straws made of real, whole bamboo
Important information To be accepted in our Green Bin program, compostable straws must be 100% free of plastic. Straws made with plant-based plastics (bioplastics) such as cornstarch, potato starch, and sugar cane are not accepted under the by-law or in the Green Bin program.
X Banned straws include those made of
Plastics (made from fossil fuel products)
Plastic labeled or described as compostable, degradable (biodegradable, oxodegradable, photodegradable)
Plastics made from plants or other biological materials such as cornstarch, potato starch, and sugar cane
PLA (polylactic acid)
Paper straws lined with any type of plastic
Important information None of the materials listed above are accepted in the City of Vancouver’s Green Bin program.
Single-use utensils can only be provided upon request or at self-serve stations.
Help us stop utensil spam! When dining in, taking out or ordering food online, ask for single-use utensils only if you need them.
In 2018, 103 million single-use utensils were thrown in the garbage in Vancouver.
Effective April 22, 2020, businesses, charities, and not-for-profits are expected to comply with the following:
Single-use utensils can only be provided to customers upon request (this is a by-request by-law)
For all dine-in, take-out, in-person, online, and telephone orders, food vendors can only provide single-utensils if the food vendor asks a customer if they want a single-use utensil, and the customer:
Confirms that they do, or
A customer requests a single-use utensil, or
A customer helps themselves to a single-use utensil from a self-serve station
The by-law covers single-use spoons, knives, forks, and chopsticks of all material types. Self-serve stations are allowed.
In 2018, about 103 million single-use utensils were thrown in the garbage in Vancouver — not including the utensils that were littered in the natural environment. Two-thirds were single-use chopsticks and wooden utensils. We also know that 71% of Vancouverites believe they would reduce how often they used single-use items if they were asked if they wanted them before making a purchase.
We’re trying to stop utensil spam and reduce the amount of single-use utensils thrown in the garbage in Vancouver.
When ordering take-out:
Only request single-use utensils if you need them.
Don’t accept single-use utensils if you don’t need them.
Tell your favourite restaurants not to include single-use utensils automatically in take-out orders.
Consider making your own reusable utensils set and carrying it with you.
Foam cups and foam take-out containers
Foam cups and foam take-out containers are banned.
Only 6% of Vancouver residents reported that they bring foam to a recycling depot.
As a result, the majority of single-use foam cups and foam take-out containers are not recycled but instead are sent to landfill.
As of January 1, 2020, businesses, charities, and not-for-profits are banned from serving prepared food or drinks in foam cups and foam containers.
The foam ban applies to all white and coloured polystyrene foam cups and foam take-out containers that are used for serving prepared food or beverages, including but not limited to plates, cups, bowls, trays, cartons, and hinged (“clamshell”) or lidded containers.
Charitable food providers are temporarily exempt for 1 year
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
Foam trays used to package uncooked food or foods packaged outside Vancouver
Packages of foam cups and foam containers sold for personal use
Due to the extenuating circumstances of COVID-19, City staff are prioritizing outreach and education to ensure businesses have the support they need in order to comply with the single-use item by-laws.
If a business is found to be out of compliance with the single-use item by-laws that are in effect, our initial actions will focus on education, outreach, and support to help them comply.
Following these initial education actions, increasing levels of enforcement may be applied to address non-compliant operators. Enforcement may include issuing tickets, which carry a fine of $500 per offence. The provision for the $500 fine is in the Ticket Offences By-law No. 9360 PDF file (218 KB).
Further prosecutions in provincial court could be subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 per offence.
Ongoing non-compliance may also result in business licence suspensions, or recommendations for business licence revocation.
Information icon Charitable food services may continue to distribute single-use items with food or meals during COVID-19. Charitable food services are expected to begin working towards complying with the by-laws as soon as it is possible for them.
Recognizing we can’t solve this problem on our own, we’ve encouraged the provincial and federal governments to introduce regulations to reduce single-use and plastic waste, and we’ve participated in engagements to develop them.
Foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics
Under these federal regulations, the sale and distribution of these single-use plastic items will be banned:
On December 20, 2023, checkout bags, straws, cutlery, stir sticks, and foodservice ware made from problematic plastics (polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black, or an oxo-degradable plastic)
On June 20, 2024, ring carriers and flexible straws packaged with beverage containers
A ban on plastic shopping bags, and minimum fees of $0.25 and $2 on paper and reusable shopping bags in 2023
By-request requirements for all types of single-use straws, cutlery, stir sticks, condiment sachets, napkins, cold cup lids, cup sleeves, and food or beverage trays in 2023
A ban on problematic plastic foodservice packaging such as containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, film wrap, and cups made from polystyrene foam, PVC, or compostable plastic in 2024
A ban on all packaging made from oxo-degradable plastic, including oxo-degradable bin liners, dog waste bags, and clothing packaging in 2024
We’re considering how these federal and provincial regulations may affect the City’s single-use item by-laws, and City Council may decide to change them. Until then, Vancouver business licence holders are required to comply with our single-use item regulations in Licence By-law No. 4450 (sections 15.5 to 15.9).
As contaminants, plastics that are labeled or described as compostable, degradable, or made from plants are most likely to be removed from composting and recycling streams and then disposed to landfill or incinerator.
Single-use items represent the wastefulness of our modern throw-away society. No matter what they are made of, single-use items are often not recycled or composted, take up valuable space in our landfill, have a lasting impact on our environment long after being used for a short period of time, and require a significant amount of resources to produce.
Our Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy targets reducing single-use items made from all types of materials, not just plastics. We recognize that all materials have environmental, social or resource impacts, which is why we’ve prioritized “Avoid, Reduce, and Reuse”.
We know that we can’t recycle our way to zero waste.