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Vancouver cup fees: Are they a cash grab?


By now, you've probably had to pay an extra fee for your cuppa joe to-go. New rules went into effect Jan. 1. Consumers are now charged 25 cents for to-go cups. Is it just a money grab?

There is some resentment brewing over those extra fees. Retailers get to keep the money, which is supposed to be a deterrent to incentivize consumers to recycle and reuse. However, if consumers have to pay the fees, they want merchants to do their part for the cause.

"They're not designed to be revenue generators for business," explained Monica Kosmak, City of Vancouver senior project manager for the single-use reduction strategy.

"I don't mind the new fee. It's fine with me," said Lynda Lazosky, while sipping her tea at a local Waves Coffee House.

However, she didn't have to pay more for her tea in a single-use cup because in Vancouver, Waves has lowered the price of its drinks to offset the extra fee that it says it's required to charge for single-use cups.

Waves says it is not offering in-store drinking mugs or allowing customers to bring in their own reusable mugs. Company spokesperson Kalida Norzad explained that they have put those measures on hold in order to protect their staff from COVID-19. That is why they are offsetting the price until the pandemic is over.

"Just because it's not fair, we don't have for-here mugs and we don't use their own mug or tumblers so we kept it the same price," she said.

However, once the pandemic is over Norzad says Waves will start offering reusable alternatives and will charge customers more for those who want their drinks in single-use cups.

JJ Bean Coffee Roasters says it has been encouraging waste reduction for years and says because of that it is in compliance with the City of Vancouver's new cup fee rules, which require merchants to charge a minimum of 25 cents for single-use cups.

"What they told us all to do is to make sure that to-go pricing is higher than for-here pricing but we've always had that," said John Neate, CEO of JJ Bean Coffee Roasters.

JJ Bean has one price for drinking from one of the stores mugs in-house, adding 25 cents more if you get a to-go cup and 25 cents off the regular price if you bring your own reusable mug.

"We didn't actually move our prices up," Neate said.

Starbucks is charging the extra fee for to-go cups but says it has been offering 10 cents off the regular price if you bring your own mug.

Starbucks has started allowing customers to do that again. Consumers who bring their own mugs are supposed to place them in a receptacle offered by Starbucks. That is to ensure employees don't have to touch the consumer's cup. Once the beverage is made, the consumer retrieves the cup from the receptacle.

However, only select Starbucks locations are offering in-house reusable mugs called "for-here ware." As for the extra fees Starbucks is collecting, the company says it is investing in other ways to manage waste and recycling.

You may encounter some outlets that are offering no recycling alternatives or allowing you to use your own mug, yet still charge you the extra fee on top of the regular price. You can raise the issue with the store and if they don't provide an option, you can vote with your feet and go somewhere else.

In addition, there are mug share programs at participating retailers that allow you to pay a deposit on a reusable mug and then return it to participating locations for reimbursement. Top Stories

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