Vancouver cup fee cancellation prompts business rethink for reusable product providers

Makers of reusable cups are concerned with sustainability of the environment and their businesses.

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By Mateo Muego

Vancouver sustainability businesses are pivoting as Vancouver city council will remove the $0.25 fee on single-use cups next month.

Cody Irwin is the founder of ShareWares, a company that lets customers borrow reusable cups to avoid the single-use cup fee.

Irwin’s customers can leave a deposit at kiosks inside partner coffee shops to use reusable cups to save money after Vancouver council added the mandatory fee on Jan. 1, 2022.

With the law no longer in effect as of May 1, 2023, ShareWares and other companies will have to adapt their business strategies to the new rules. Cafes must also decide whether to allow customers to bring in their own mugs.

“We just have to pivot and figure out other levers that we can pull to be able to more easily transition,” Irwin said. For example, ShareWares has partnered with Skip The Dishes to provide reusable food containers. The company also works with festivals and events to help reduce their environmental impacts.

Irwin, who uses thermoses and mugs, said he is concerned about sustainability, not about the 25 cents.

“We fought to keep [the law] because it was helping, but other things happened and we didn’t win that battle, but that’s all good,” Irwin said.

Irwin and his team will try to work with Vancouver city council to build new strategies for his company and allow his customers to avoid paying fees on small purchases.

“We want to work with [city council] … we’re going to propose other new things to them,” said Irwin.

Businesses that were mandated to add the fee for customers welcomed the change, as many customers did not understand why the fee was in place.

“When the fee was introduced, people didn’t quite understand that it was like a mandated thing,” said Carol Kaesbauer, owner of Lee’s Donuts on Granville Island.

Relief for tourists

According to Kaesbauer, removing the fee will be helpful for tourists who did not understand the fee.

“[People] from all around the world coming in, they don’t understand usually,” said Kaesbauer. “We won’t have to do the explaining all the time.”

Minh Dang, an accounting student at Langara, said, “It doesn’t really change anything.”

He added that while it may have some environmental benefit, he does not expect people not to buy beverages in single-use cups because of the fee.

Breanna Chow, another Langara student said the new rule won’t affect her.

“If you’re going to have an initiative for the environment, there should be other things that can be done,” Chow said.

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