City makes refinements to ground-breaking cup by-law

Discarded single-use coffee cups
March 2 2022 –

Council voted today in favour of changes to the City’s recently introduced by-law that requires businesses to charge a minimum $0.25 fee on single-use cups. Council approved staff recommendations to address some of the early challenges with the by-law encountered by some businesses, stakeholders, and residents since it came into effect on January 1, 2022. 

Central to Council’s direction are by-law amendments and additional actions that help address the needs of people experiencing homelessness or living with lower incomes. These include:

  • Exempting free drinks from the cup fee
  • Expanding and raising awareness of low barrier cup-exchange programs
  • Using the City’s Equity Framework to address other unintended impacts on equity-denied communities

These steps help ensure people experiencing poverty are not excluded as we transition to reusables and zero waste.

Council has also approved in principle a requirement that food vendors must accept reusable cups by July 1, 2022, in line with public health rules, which gives customers the option to avoid the fee and reduce single-use cup waste as intended by the by-law.

Lastly, staff have been asked to report back next year with a strategy to require businesses to provide reusable cups for drinks ordered to-stay and to offer a reusable cup-share program for drinks ordered to-go. This is intended to motivate businesses to invest cup fee revenues in reusable alternatives and provide customers with even more options to shift to zero waste.


Vancouver is a national leader in efforts to reduce single-use items going to disposal. Since introducing the cup fee at the start of this year, there’s been encouraging and growing momentum as more and more businesses across Vancouver are accepting reusable cups, and offering options such as reusable cups for drinks to stay and cup-share for drinks to go. The cup by-law in particular is the first by-law of its kind in Canada and is aimed at reducing the estimated 82 million cups thrown in the garbage each year in Vancouver.