Ban on foam cups and containers in Vancouver goes into effect on Jan. 1

Violators won’t go unpunished down the road, but for now city will focus on education, outreach and support

Just four of 30 food stalls Postmedia looked at in downtown food courts were still using styrofoam cups and containers. A bylaw takes effect on Jan. 1 banning styrofoam at takeout stalls. PNG

Don’t expect to sip your takeout caffeinated hangover cure from a foam cup on the morning of Jan. 1.

Come New Year’s Day, food and beverages in foam cups and foam take-out containers will be banned from Vancouver’s restaurants and takeout stalls, part of the city’s single-use-item reduction strategy.

The strategy “gets to the heart of our throwaway society,” said Monica Kosmak, its senior project manager. “And it’s one of the first actions in the city of Vancouver’s 2040 strategy, which is to send zero waste to landfills or incinerators by then.”

The city has sent outreach workers to restaurants and takeout venues, and have been told by those still using foam cups and containers they are using up old stock before the ban comes into effect, Kosmak said.

“But many of them are aware and are prepared for the ban.”

A quick survey of 30 food stalls at two big downtown food courts in mid-December revealed just four still using foam.

Food courts at lunch time turn out to be packed with harried diners who don’t want to be quoted or have their photo taken, but one gentleman eating a Vietnamese lunch let us take a photo of the foam container his food came in.

“Of course (the ban) is a good idea,” he said. “Any single-use plastic or styrofoam that is kept out of a landfill is obviously a good thing.”

There are still lots of plastic utensils being used, but come April 22 there will be a “by request” bylaw for them, meaning customers will have to ask for them instead of automatically having them provided.

As well come April 22, there will be a requirement for businesses to stock and provide bendable plastic straws for people with disabilities, but a ban on all other plastic straws.

Come Jan. 1, 2021, there will be a ban on plastic shopping bags and a 25-cent fee on disposable cups.

Clear plastic bowls are not being targeted for now.

“The only bylaw that targets containers for bowls is the foam ban,” Kosmak said. “We’re not banning plastic bowls at this time, what we’re doing is asking (food venues) to choose reusable if they can.

“If they have to use a single-use item, they can choose something that can be recycled in the Recycle B.C. residential recycling program … or the city’s green-bin program for compost.”

That would include plastic and plastic-lined paper for recycling, and fibre-pulp paper, moulded-pulp paper, even pressed leaves.

Vancouver will become one of 100 cities in North America to ban foam, and the first in Canada, Kosmak said.

“There are other cities in Canada that have bylaws dealing with shopping bags, 14 of them I think, and about four for plastic straws, two of which are already in place.

“But Vancouver has the most comprehensive strategy for dealing with a wide range of single-use items in Canada.”

There is information online offering reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging alternatives and other helpful hints in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Punjabi, Vietnamese and Tagalog at  SOURCE

100% by 2050 – Vancouver’s roadmap to urban sustainability

Responsible for two-thirds of the world’s carbon emissions and facing rapid urbanisation, cities are embracing new and innovative solutions to meet climate and development objectives. Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city, is leading this urban energy transformation by committing itself to 100% renewables by 2050 through an ambitious, well-defined roadmap that unifies different sectors, stakeholders and communities under its vision for a sustainable, carbon-free future.

As growing evidence confirms, sustainable energy can be promoted at the municipal level through planning, regulation, public procurement, direct investment, provision of services and awareness-raising. City planners and policy makers possess several available levers to steer urban energy systems towards renewables and reap their benefits. IRENA, in collaboration with ICLEI and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), examined Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy in a recent case study, showcasing how bringing together different stakeholders and unifying their outlook is critical for cities to succeed with ambitious renewable energy goals.

With 69% of its energy sourced from fossil fuels, half of which is used to heat buildings, Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy – in conjunction with the Zero Emissions Building Plan – aims to reduce 70% of emissions from new buildings by 2020, 90% by 2025 and 100% by 2030, phasing in changes to building standards that allow the construction industry to adapt over time. Twenty of the 75 largest greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting municipal buildings will be retrofitted to a zero emissions standard over the next 25 years. This measure will contribute 20% of the GHG emissions reductions required to make all municipal buildings carbon neutral by 2040.

Furthermore, the city is looking at district energy – referred to as ‘neighbourhood energy’ in Vancouver – which can be powered by renewables and is viable in densely-settled parts of the city where capital and operating costs can be recovered at rates that are competitive with natural gas. Low-density areas, such as single family homes and low-occupancy apartments, will most likely be supplied with electricity from solar PV or solar thermal, heat pumps which utilise grid-supplied electricity, or on-site wind power.

However, using electricity for building heating and hot water in low-density areas is still expensive in comparison to natural gas. Therefore, the city is emphasizing increased density with current estimates projecting that only 10-15% of households in Vancouver will be single family homes in 2050 compared to 80% of the land in Vancouver currently dedicated to single-family housing.

To reach its sustainability goals, Vancouver is also targeting the other major emitter of carbon in cities – transportation. Three of its Renewable City Strategy priorities are focused on increasing the use of renewable transportation options, reducing motorized transportation demand and the increasing supply of renewable transportation fuels. Even though the city has limited jurisdiction over automobile standards, Vancouver has already taken steps to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles (EV).

For example, the city’s Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Strategy sets out 32 actions intended to increase the number of EV charging spots in homes, workplaces and public spaces in the period from 2016 to 2021. Because Vancouver’s electricity is almost exclusively generated from hydropower, electrification can reduce personal vehicle emissions by up to 97%. Projections show that by 2050 approximately 25% of personal vehicles in Vancouver could be fully electric vehicles, with another 45% comprising plug-in hybrids using a combination of renewable electricity and bio-methane, and the remainder being conventional hybrid vehicles running on bio-methane.

In addition to synergizing existing strategies and plans, Vancouver realises the importance of stakeholder engagement and has taken steps to introduce the public to strategy planning and implementation, collect feedback, and build dialogue between the public and the municipal government, through initiatives such as the ‘Bright Green Summer’ and “100% RE Talks”.

Beyond electric vehicles, Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 Strategy promotes sustainable transportation infrastructure and encourages increased walking, bicycling and public transit use, was key for the city to achieve its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan goal of having over 50% of trips made by walking, cycling or public transit five years early, in March 2015. With the help of the Mobi bicycle sharing programme, cycling is Vancouver’s fastest-growing mode of transport. The city exceeded its target of reducing the average annual distance driven per resident by 20% relative to 2007 levels, having already overachieved a reduction of 32%. MORE

Vancouver says no more foam food containers

A ban will take place in the new year, followed by crackdowns on straws and grocery bags

foam food containers
CC BY-NC 2.0 Jack Zalium

The city of Vancouver has announced a ban on all disposable cups and takeout food containers made of foam. The ban, which will take effect on January 1, 2020, applies to all restaurants, grocery stores, food courts, and special events, and affects prepared foods that are consumed on the premises and packaged as takeout or leftovers. This is exactly one year after New York City’s controversial foam ban went into effect.

From the city website,

“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.”

The ban could affect a broad range of foods, including “soups, stews, curries, sushi, fried food, sauces, salads, deli foods, or sliced veggies meant to be eaten without further cooking.”

This foam ban is just one of the actions Vancouver is taking to reduce single-use item waste in support of its zero-waste goal for 2040. Other actions include banning plastic and compostable plastic straws by next April, offering only bendable ones to meet accessibility requirements and allowing a year’s grace period for bubble tea sellers to find alternatives; handing out single-use cutlery only upon request; and banning all plastic grocery bags by January 2021, including compostable ones.

This is the first city apart from San Francisco that I’ve heard of cracking down on compostable plastics, and it makes me very happy. Numerous studies have shown that compostable and biodegradable plastics are not a viable solution to the plastics pollution problem, that they fail to break down in the environment and still pose a real threat to wildlife. And yet, many locales – such as the island of Capri with its recent single-use plastic ban – still allow them. Vancouver is wise to ban them at the same time as conventional plastics, which will encourage the kinds of broader behavioral changes that need to occur.

The city offers a list of alternatives on its website, encouraging businesses to communicate with each other to participate in group buying to reduce the cost of new packaging. It suggests embracing new practices that use fewer containers:

“For example, you can ask your dine-in customers if they’d like to have their leftovers packaged in as few single-use containers as possible, rather than packaging leftover dishes separately. You can also encourage your dine-in customers to bring their own reusable containers for taking home any leftovers.”

This is happy news that, hopefully, does not meet with too much resistance. The city doesn’t seem worried. Mayor Kennedy Stewart said these bylaws passed by city council “balance public demand for action on disposable items with the needs of those with disabilities and the business community,” so there appears to be support for them. Well done, Vancouver. SOURCE

Battery-electric buses hit the roads in Metro Vancouver

TransLink hopes to operate its fleet using renewable energy by 2050

The new battery-electric buses are part of a two-and-a-half year pilot project. A prototype is pictured here. (Alex Lamic/CBC)

TransLink’s first battery-electric buses are taking to the roads in Metro Vancouver as part of a pilot project to reduce emissions.

The first four zero-emission buses picked up commuters in Vancouver, Burnaby and  New Westminster on Wednesday. Six more are expected to be brought in.

“With so many people taking transit in Vancouver today, electric buses will make a real difference,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University, in a release.

According to TransLink, each bus is expected to reduce 100 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and save $40,000 in fuel costs per year compared to a conventional diesel bus.

“Buses already help tackle climate change by getting people out of cars, and Vancouver is ahead of the game with its electric trolleys,” Smith said.

She added there is still more work to be done to get every bus off diesel.

The buses will run along the No. 100 route connecting Vancouver and New Westminster. They recharge — it takes about five minutes — at new charging stations installed at both ends of the route while passengers load and unload or while the driver has a short break. MORE


Eight Hard Questions for the PM of Pipelines and Climate Emergency

He says Canadians can have it both ways. The facts say otherwise.

What Trudeau’s Liberals have done cannot be reconciled. Photo via Justin Trudeau Flickr.

As the planet slowly stews in its increasingly sultry juices, sled dogs are walking on water, but Justin Trudeau no longer is.

Polar bears are starving, the Arctic permafrost is melting, and glaciers are retreating faster than the PM on electoral reform and government transparency. And oh yes, as of yesterday, Canada is expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline. That is called renovating the outhouse when indoor plumbing is the answer.

I picture Sheriff Jason Kenney’s posse, spurs ajingle and six guns flapping on their chaps, saddling up and galloping off to their war room at my imagery.

They do that now when they hear any “radical environmentalist” rearing his pesky head as opposed to those petrol Pollyannas of the energy sector who, as everyone knows, are full of philanthropy, mercenary science, and boffo marketing. The guys who make profits and tailings ponds.

But even those with their heads buried in bitumen have to resolve the latest development in what’s left of their social conscience. The Liberals and the rest of parliament have declared that Canada is experiencing a climate emergency. (There was one notable dissenter — those permanent campers in Jurassic Park on all matters touching the environment, the Conservative Party of Canada. Emergency, what emergency?)

Yet on the same day the “emergency” is declared by everybody but the fossil heads, the government says yes to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. As Shakespeare observed in Macbeth “Such welcome and unwelcome things at once. ’Tis hard to reconcile.”

Eight questions for Justin Trudeau

So a few blunt questions for the PM, who continues to publicly peddle the dubious line that Canadians can have it both ways, while privately linking arms with the CEOs.

1. Since Canada is already on track to miss its emission targets set in Paris by 79 megatonnes (only Gambia and Morocco are on target), how do you justify greenlighting a project that will add 20 per cent to carbon emissions from the Alberta tar sands?

2. You once said that only communities could issue the social license for mega projects like this. So what do you say to the Squamish Nation, and the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby who have not granted that social license?

3. If expanding Trans Mountain is such an economic winner, why did Kinder Morgan happily unload this project on the Canadian people? Where were the rugged captains of private industry when this “jewel” went up for sale? MORE

David Suzuki, prominent environmentalists launch cross-country tour warnings of global crisis

David Suzuki
David Suzuki makes an appearance at United Church on Bloor Street on June 10, 2019.

Some of Canada’s leading environmentalists are trekking across the country to illustrate what they are calling global climate crisis.

Toronto marked the first stop on a seven-city tour for The Leap, a collective of prominent activists who are backing a Green New Deal, an ambitious U.S. plan to curb climate change and transform the economy by investing in clean energy jobs.

The movement is gaining traction among members of the Democratic Party in the United States.

Among those who were touting its virtues in front of a sold out crowd at United Church, located near Tuesday night were author and activist Naomi Klein and environmentalist-turned-broadcaster David Suzuki, who blamed the media for not properly highlighting the perils of planet-wide climate change.

“In May, the United Nations released a study saying we are causing a catastrophic rate of extinction threatening a million species of plants and animals,” Suzuki said. “The next day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a baby and pushed everything out of the news.”

“Fundamental changes are urgent,” he warned, saying consequences to ecosystems, food supplies and economies will be dire by the year 2100 if global temperature increases aren’t capped to within 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial era averages.

His sentiments were echoed by Pam Palmater, who works as a professor, lawyer and aboriginal rights activist.

“What will it take for people to wake up and realize we don’t need to just change things around the edges? Stop using plastic straws, yes! But that won’t save the world. This isn’t about who you vote for. The most irresponsible a citizen can do is vote and then call it a day.”

The next stop on The Leap’s cross country tour is Thursday in Montreal, with appearances scheduled to follow in Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.  MORE



Get tickets here

Inside the Race to Unify Progressives Behind a Canadian Green New Deal
Climate Activists Hold Town Hall for Green New Deal

Proposed “Big Moves” on climate could transform Vancouver in ways residents might not have imagined

This posting is a teaser to get you to read the common sense, realistic plans Vancouver is making in the full article. It contains all sorts of initiatives that the Prince Edward Council should be considering. If you wish to send an email to all Members of Council as a group, please email

Coun. Christine Boyle's motion last January declaring a climate emergency has set the stage for dramatic recommendations from Vancouver city staff.
Coun. Christine Boyle’s motion last January declaring a climate emergency has set the stage for dramatic recommendations from Vancouver city staff.

…Vancouver city council will deal with two major staff reports focusing on greenhouse gas emissions.

The first includes recommendations on the city’s response to a “climate emergency”, which was declared in January by council.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact that this report could have on the city and possibly other countries in the years to come….

Local governments can change the world. That’s been seen in everything from antismoking efforts to cannabis regulation to the peace movement to the trend across the globe to viewing drug addiction as a health issue.

In all four of these areas, Vancouver was a leading player in North America, just as it has been in responding to climate change.

Local actions can persuade senior governments to follow because municipalities are often hothouses for innovation. And this has also been the case with climate change.

Witness the role that municipal governments, including Vancouver, had in strengthening the backbone of world leaders to set hard limits in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

“In Canada and around the world, there is a growing movement of hundreds of local governments recognizing the emergency that climate change represents, accelerating their own actions, and calling on provincial/state and national governments to ramp up their responses,” the city report states. “Given the world’s increasingly urbanized population is on the front lines of the fight against climate change, the world’s urban population will disproportionately experience the effects of global warming.”

Forest fires have brought shrouds of smoke to Vancouver in recent summers. City staff have proposed
Forest fires have brought shrouds of smoke to Vancouver in recent summers. City staff have proposed “clean air” rooms as one possible response. METRO VANCOUVER 

The city report recommends six “Big Moves”, which will be voted on by council. Below, I’ve listed them, as well as their implications for city residents. MORE

‘Glimmer of hope’: Will modular housing make dent in Vancouver homeless numbers?

This year marks the first chance to see the impact of modular housing in Vancouver. Some hope to see a slight reduction in the city’s homeless numbers.

With the City of Vancouver’s 10th annual homeless count underway this week, some in the Downtown Eastside see a “glimmer of hope” that this could mark the first time in years that the city sees a significant drop in its homeless tally.

Volunteers were conducting the homeless count in Vancouver shelters Tuesday evening, to be followed by the “street count” starting early Wednesday. Between 2005 and 2018, the overall number of homeless recorded in the annual count — combining both sheltered and unsheltered people — increased 60 per cent, from 1,364 in 2005 to 2,181 last year. Out of the last six homeless counts, the only year-over-year decrease recorded was in 2015, when it dipped about three per cent, before bouncing back the following year.

temporary modular housing
Vancouver city council wants another 600 units of temporary modular housing in the city, but funding is still needed. The mayor will be writing to the province requesting the money. Photo Dan Toulgoet

It will still be some time before the final tally of this year’s homeless count is known. But based on one early indicator, Union Gospel Mission spokesman Jeremy Hunka holds out some hope that this year might show an improvement — and, he believes, the city’s modular-housing program deserves credit.

The number of people turned away from the mission’s shelter on East Hastings Street this past winter was less than a third of the annual number from each of the previous three winters, Hunka said. MORE

Money laundering key focus

Photo: Twitter

Money laundering in British Columbia has become a top issue for the federal and provincial governments with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau vowing a “crack down” Friday, while the province considers a public inquiry.

“The importance of dealing with money laundering concerns is something that is clearly on our agenda,” said Morneau at a news conference in Victoria. “We need to be very clear, we crack down on any issues around money laundering.”

Last year, an international anti-money laundering organization said in a report that up to $1 billion annually was being filtered through some B.C. casinos by organized crime groups. The B.C. government also cited an RCMP intelligence report that estimated up to $1 billion from the proceeds of crime was used to purchase expensive Metro Vancouver homes. An RCMP official said Friday the Mounties are searching their data bases to find the report the government has cited.  MORE


Vancouver City Councillor Pushes Vancouver to Declare Climate Emergency


January 16th, 2019 (Vancouver/Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-waututh Territory) — The City of Vancouver joins cities around the globe like London, England and Los Angeles, California in declaring a Climate Emergency.

Councillor Christine Boyle with the political party OneCity Vancouver moved a resolution supported by a majority of Council for the City of Vancouver to declare a climate emergency, direct staff to take immediate action to ramp up ambition in the city’s climate action plans, and embed an equity framework to prioritize vulnerable communities within those plans.

Today, City Council recognized the need to dramatically strengthen our climate action plans, to match the urgency that scientists are reporting, and to ensure those closest to the impacts are being supported first. MORE