VANCOUVER -- The City of Vancouver is recommending bubble tea stores be given a one-year exemption from the single-use plastic straw ban.

A staff report, now made public, outlines recommendations for bylaws for how and when single-use plastic items should be banned across the city. The recommendations are divided into four categories: straws, cups, utensils and shopping bags.

Styrofoam containers will be banned by January 2020. The other items will follow:

Plastic straws

  • Banned by April 22, 2020 (Earth Day)
  • Bendable plastic straws individually wrapped in paper to be provided by request
  • A one-year exemption for plastic straws served with bubble tea


Disposable Cups

  • Banned by January 1, 2021
  • Require fees of at least 25 cents


  • Banned by January 1, 2021
  • Single-use utensils made of any material be given out by-request only

Shopping Bags

  • Banned by January 1, 2021
  • Fees of at least 15 cents on paper bags and $1 on reusable bags, those increase to 25 cents and $2 after one year

The report says the recommendations are part of the ongoing implementation of the City’s Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy from 2018, and also the Zero Waste 2040 Strategic Plan.

“What we’re talking about is shifting our behaviour,” Councillor Lisa Dominato told CTV News, “We’ve become a very disposable society and I think we’re recognising that.”

There are exemptions for health care facilities and charities because of the risk of infection.

Bubble tea stores are also being given an extra year to comply with the ban on plastic straws, given how difficult it is to find alternatives. Lily Song from Buns and Boba on Broadway says the current options include straws made of rice and paper, though rice can be dangerous because if you bite it, the straw breaks. And paper straws get soggy in drinks, making it hard to get the tapioca pearls at the bottom.

“We’re looking for a really good substitute that could replace these straws,” Song said. “We just need to find a manufacturer and that’s proving to be difficult.”

Most of the recommendations have the backing from the restaurant industry, but Ian Tostenson, President and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant Association says he’ll be asking the city for an exemption from the fee for bags used at restaurant drive-thru windows.

“You can’t actually take your own carry bag through a drive-thru and get them to fill it, it doesn’t really work that way, so an exemption makes sense,” Tostenson said.

The report will go to council next week.